Taione helps Tonga to victory

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Tonga replacement forward Sione Vailanu takes the direct route against Canada in the final round of the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2019 in Lautoka, Fiji. Photo: ZoomFiji

By Mark Stevens

Exeter Chiefs hooker Elvis Taione came on as a second half replacement as Tonga ended their Pacific Nations Cup campaign on a high note with a 33-23 victory over Canada at Churchill Park in Fiji.

Just over seven minutes were on the clock when full-back David Halaifonua breached the try-line following an attacking scrum. Scrum-half Sonatane Takulua added the conversion before Gordon McRorie got Canada on the scoreboard with an 18th-minute penalty.

Tonga took firm control of the contest around the half-hour mark with two tries in three minutes. For the first winger Viliame Lolohea crashed over near the posts following a team move that started in the 'Ikale Tahi’s own 22, before Malietoa Hingano punished Canada for an overthrown line-out to give his side a 16-point lead.

Takulua missed the conversion and Canada ate into that advantage on the stroke of half-time as Jeff Hassler touched down to leave the score at 19-8 at the break.

Tonga extended their lead beyond two converted tries within two minutes of the restart as replacement prop Latu Talakai – who only came on at half-time – crashed over and Takulua added his third conversion.

Canada earned some reward for an improved second-half performance when Patrick Parfrey breached the Tongan line on the hour mark.

Replacement second-row Sione Vailanu added a fifth Tongan try, converted by Latiume Fosita, in the 74th minute and it proved a necessary one as Canada scored two more unconverted scores – through DTH van der Merwe and Hassler – to make the final score more respectable.

“It was a well-deserved win for the boys,” Tonga captain Siale Piutau said. “We’re just trying to get fitter, stronger so we’re ready for the tier one teams at the World Cup.”

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