Canada's self-belief sees off Tonga
WHANGAREI, 14 Sept. - Canadian coach Kieran Crowley says his team's tenacious Rugby World Cup 2011 opening win will give them valuable confidence for the rest of the campaign. The Canucks came back from seven points down with 16 minutes to go to beat Tonga 25-20 in front of a capacity crowd of 17,174 at the Northland Events Centre.
"It gives the guys confidence and self-belief. Two or three years ago I think we would have lost it," Crowley said. "The confidence that we have, we can actually nail it." Second row Jebb Sinclair, who scored the Canucks first try, also said it delivered on Canada's promise to play a more attacking brand of rugby at this RWC.
"We held on to the ball and we played some rugby," he said. "And we like playing rugby. And we’re damn good at it. We’re going to kick the ball and we’re going to surprise some people."
The Canadians put the first points on the scoreboard in the 13th minute when DTH van der Merwe broke through Tonga's defence and Sinclair powered over the line.
Canada's forwards dominated play for the rest of the half, but Tonga regained momentum 30 seconds before half-time when Siale Piutau scored his first international try.
Tonga built on that in the second half and when Piutau burst through a gap to score his second try, Kurt Morath added a penalty to leave the Sea Eagles in control at 20-13.
But Canada's two substitutions, Conor Trainor for Ryan Smith and Ryan Hamilton for captain Pat Riordan, proved inspired.
Trainor set up Aaron Carpenter's 67th-minute try before Phil Mackenzie landed the match-winner - his fourth try in four matches - to seal victory.
"I think those substitutions, when they came on, made a real impact. That got us over the line at the end," Crowley said.
Tonga's coach Isitolo Maka defended the 11 changes he made from the squad that lost to the All Blacks last Friday. "I thought we needed some fresh legs on the field. And we certainly had that. I think we just made the wrong decisions at the wrong time."
But he refused to concede his team's tournament was over.
"Everyone is down tonight, but it's not over yet," he said.