Canada held off a late charge from Tonga to win their third consecutive Pacific Nations Cup Test 36-27.
Playing under rainy conditions at Richardson Stadium on Queens University’s campus in Kingston, Ont., Tonga took a stranglehold on the momentum early on. An early try from Lua Lokotui and successful conversion from Kurt Morath put the 11th-ranked team in the world ahead by seven.
With Canada pressing but not able to break through easily, James Pritchard arrived for his first taste of game action just in time. The Bedford Blues star booted three penalty goals in row to give Canada the 9-7 lead at the break.
The first half also featured an altercation around the 34th minute in which Eddit Aholelei was sent off for Tonga with a red card.
After a low-scoring first half, Canada hit their stride in the second frame. Nathan Hirayama made a break out of his own 22 and found Matt Evans for a superb long-range try for the home team. Then an interception from 50-cap man Aaron Carpenter set up Sean Duke for another try. Pritchard was good on both conversions to make it 23-7.
Morath would add a penalty goal for Tonga to cap off an intense ten minutes of scoring.
A scary moment occurred midway through the second half when Matt Evans was hit hard by a Tongan player and stayed down for several minutes. He left the field via a stretcher but, thankfully, turned out not to be seriously hurt.
Canada extended their lead. Duke pulled out of a tackle and linked with Pritchard for a try, which he converted. That made it 33-10, but then Tonga roared back with three straight tries. Viliami Iongi scored on an interception, Fetu’u Vainikolo went over, and then Will Helu finished a longer series of pressure in the Canadian 22 to make it 33-27.
Tonga continued to pressure, but could not score any more, while Pritchard dealt the Sea Eagles a cruel blow with a penalty goal, thus denying Tonga the close-loss bonus point.
Following Saturday’s victory, Canada continues to lead the table with 12 points as the only undefeated team. Canada’s only remaining opponent, Japan, sits at 0-2 with zero points in the tournament following losses to Tonga and Fiji.
Tries: Evans, Duke, Pritchard
Convs: Pritchard 3
Pens: Pritchard 4 Hearn
Tries: Lokotui, Iongi, Vainikolo, Helu
Convs: Morath, Kaho
1 - Hubert Buydens, (Saskatoon Wild Oats/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
2 - Ray Barkwill, (Niagara Wasps RFC/Ontario Blues) Niagara Falls, ON
3 - Jason Marshall, (Atlantique Stade Rochelais/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
4 - Brett Beukeboom, (Plymouth Albion) Lindsay, ON
5 - Tyler Hotson, (London Scottish RFC) Vancouver, BC
6 - Jebb Sinclair, (London Irish) Fredericton, NB
7 - John Moonlight, (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON
8 - Aaron Carpenter, Captain, (Cornish Pirates) Brantford, ON
9 - Sean White, (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
10 - Nathan Hirayama, (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears), Richmond, BC
11 - Sean Duke, (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears), Vancouver, BC
12 - Nick Blevins, (Calgary Hornets/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
13 - Ciaran Hearn, (Castaway Wanderers/Atlantic Rock) Conception Bay, NL
14 - Matt Evans, (Cornish Pirates) Maple Bay, BC
15 - James Pritchard, (Bedford Blues) Parkes, NSW, Australia
16 - Ryan Hamilton, (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
17 - Doug Wooldridge, (Lindsay RFC/Ontario Blues) Lindsay, ON
18 - Tom Dolezel, (London St. George’s/Ontario Blues) London, ON
19 - Nanyak Dala, (Castaway Wanderers RFC/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
20 - Tyler Ardron, (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Lakefield, ON 21 - Phil Mack, (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
22 - Liam Underwood, (Queens University/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
23 - Pat Parfrey, (Swilers RFC/Atlantic Rock) St. John’s, NL
1 – Eddie Aholelei
2 – Ilasia Ma’asi
3 – Taione Vea
4 – Emosi Kauhenga
5 – Lua Lokotui
6 – Hale T Pole
7 – Nili Latu Captain
8 – Viliami Fihaki
9 – Taniela Moa
10 – Kurt Morath
11 – Will Helu
12 – Sione Piukala
13 – Siale Piutau
14 – Fetu’u Vainikolo
15 – Viliami Hakalo
16 – Elvia Taione
17 – Kama Sakalia
18 – Sila Puafisi
19 – Josh Afu
20 – Paula Kaho
21 – Thomas Palu
22 – Viliame Iongi
23 – Tevita Halaifonua