14-men ‘Ikale Tahi grab first win over Canada at home

By rnz.co.nz and is republished with permission

Tonga has defeated Canada 28-3 in the first of two test matches at Te’ufaiva Stadium in Nuku’alofa on Thursday afternoon after having had to play large parts of the match with 14-men due to a yellow card to flanker Solomone Funaki in the first half and a red to former All Black centre Goerge Moala.

Tonga has defeated Canada 28-3 in the first of two-Test matches at Te’ufaiva Park in Nuku’alofa on Thursday. 10 August 2023. Photo: Canada Rugby Union

The ‘Ikale Tahi outscored their visitors four tries to none, with number eight Sione Vailanu claiming two while hooker Samiuela Moli and halfback and captain Sonatane Takulua adding one each.

The hosts scored three tries in the first half to lead 21-3 at halftime and scored their fourth in the second half and deny the Canadians any try in front of 6,000 local fans.

Skipper Takulua, playing his 51st Test for the men in red, led the rampage early, getting on the scoresheet himself after he received a well-timed pass from winger Fine Inisi Junior to run in untouched under the crossbar.

He also amassed a personal tally of 13 points in the clash and recorded a 100 percent conversation rate with his boots.

The win was what head coach Toutai Kefu was hoping for to restore confidence in the team amongst local fans, following the win-less Pacific Nations Cup series against Fiji, Japan and Samoa.

Hooker Samiuela Moli dived over after the forward pack mauled their way towards the Canadian line, following a lineout win early in the game as the Tongans turned the heat on.

Then it was Takulua who added his try followed by number eight Sione Vailanu, who finished off another forward drive.

Takulua’s conversions had the team leading 21-3 at halftime, after the Canadians claimed three points from a successful penalty attempt by fullback Peter Nelson.

It was a scrappy first half as both teams tested each other out.

Vailanu claimed a second try in the second half, peeling off a maul to crash over the Canadian line.

Canadian captain and flanker Lucas Rumball was a terrier amongst the forwards and thwarted a number of Tongan forward attacks.

His pack included Tongan Siaki Vikilani, son of Tasi Vikilani, a former ‘Ikale Tahi captain himself.

Winger Kainoa Lloyd had two good runs for the visitors but unfortunately halfback Ross Braude and then Liam Murray knocked on when the ball came their way.

Defending well

Tongan flanker Funaki was sin-binned for an infringement in the first half while inside centre and former All Black Moala was sent off the field after what was deemed a dangerous tackle on his Canadian opposite Spencer Jones early in the second spell.

That meant Tonga had to play the last 30 minutes of the match with only 14 players.

But they defended well and denied Canada two possible tries.

The second half was scrappier, with a number of knock-ons and penalties from unnecessary infringements in rucks and tackle-ball situations.

Tonga is using the series as their final warm up matches before they leave for the Rugby World Cup in France.

Coach Kefu is expected to name his 33-member squad next week, following the second Test against Canada on Tuesday afternoon in Nuku’alofa.

Tonga 28: Tries – Sione Vailanu (2), Samiuela Moli (1), Sonatane Takulua (1); Takulua – 4 conversions defeated Canada 3: Peter Nelson (1 penalty).

Crowd: 6,000; Weather – Fine.

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