Canada stun Tonga with late Mackenzie try
Canada"s Phil Mackenzie scores a try during their Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Tonga at Northland Events Centre in Whangarei September 14, 2011. Reuters

Phil Mackenzie scored a try seven minutes from time to give Canada a thrilling 25-20 World Cup victory over Tonga at the Northland Events Center on Wednesday.

The bleach-blond winger picked up the ball at the foot of a ruck and wriggled between two tacklers to touch down and give Canada only their fifth ever World Cup win, keeping alive their modest hopes of progressing from Pool A.

Tonga, who had gambled on a radical overhaul of the team that impressed but lost the tournament opener 41-10 to the All Blacks last weekend, were left stunned after looking set for victory with the stiff breeze behind them in the second half.

Lock Jebb Sinclair and number eight Aaron Carpenter also scored tries for Canada, who led 10-0 just before halftime but had seen the Tongans overhaul them in front of a passionate full house mainly composed of Pacific islanders.

That was awesome, Canada captain Pat Riordan told reporters. I'm so proud of the boys and the way they played and guts they showed. We knew it was a pretty strong wind there in the second half.

At halftime, we knew we had achieved a couple of things and knew we had to change a couple of things but also knew that it was in our control and up to us to change it and we did.

I hope it just shows what the Canadian boys can do.

Tongan center Siale Piutau will count himself unlucky not to end up on the winning side after scoring two tries, but the Pacific islanders were let down by sloppy errors and poor decision-making in the last quarter.

Very, very disappointing, said Tonga coach Isitolo Maka, whose hopes of qualifying from a pool which also includes France and Japan are all but gone.

The message went out to play the game in their half but we were still trying to run out of our own half. We just made some bad decisions.

Tonga, playing against the wind in the first half, dominated the early exchanges with some powerful running and went through plenty of phases without get much penetration.


However, it was Canada who opened the scoring in the 14th minute when livewire center DTH Van Der Merwe cut through the defensive line and Sinclair went trundling over the line.

Canada's fullback James Pritchard added the extra points and, after Kurt Morath had missed two reasonably easy penalty chances, made the score 10-0 with his second kick at goal.

The mistakes from the Tongans continued with Taniela Moa, who was so impressive at scrum half against the All Blacks but moved to flyhalf for this match, at one stage punching the ball away in frustration.

With the seconds ticking away before halftime, the Tongans did finally get some cohesion in attack and moved through 19 phases on the Canadian line before a Moa miss-pass found center Piutau and he cut inside his tackler to touch down.

Morath added the conversion to make it 10-7 at the half, and the Tongan fullback added his first penalty two minutes after the break to level the match.

Pritchard replied immediately with his second penalty to put the Canadians back in front but Tonga were now hitting their stride and 10 minutes later Piutau grabbed his second try, taking an inside ball from Moa and crossing the line untouched.

Morath again added the conversion to give his side a 17-13 lead and, with the Canadians very much on the back foot, added his second penalty after 64 minutes to extend the advantage to 20-13.

But the Canadians were not done yet, and three minutes later they capitalized on a Tongan turnover to grab their second try, Carpenter crashing between tacklers and reaching over the line.

Pritchard was unable to convert but Mackenzie made his miss academic six minutes later when his late score ignited jubilant celebrations among the Canadians in the crowd.

The restart was delayed while a streaker was chased around the pitch but the Tongans proved less elusive and Canada held on for a famous victory.