Contributed by: Brett Northey
Canada came into IC11 seeded 6th, whilst Tonga were making their debuts rated 12th. For the North Americans the tournament must surely have beeb rated as disappointing to that point, whereas for Tonga every win has been a bonus. So in some respects the islanders had nothing in the 9th versus 10th playoff while the Northwind needed a win to restore some pride.
The match started at a fast past in the 1030am slot at Ransford Oval, Royal Park. The bodies went in hard from both sides but it was Canada who struck first, with a ball kicked into space on the Eastern wing. Frank Lussier (#33) ran onto the ball and carried it down field, cleverly baulking an oncoming defender and passing to 2008 World Team player Scott Fleming (#1). From near the boundary 45m out Fleming kicked truly, not the first time his elegant kicking technique has been on display in international company.
When Tonga attacked next Taniela Fihaki (#19) went low with his head over the ball and was taken high. He rose to his feet a little unsteady to take the free from about 35m out in front but pushed it to the left, one of many missing by the Tongans. Setefano Nau (#23) soon took a big mark, and the ball was delivered to Kivalu (#25) who from 40m out also missed.
Fleming then came out to centre-half forward to mark well and showed he knows how he likes the ball delivered, as he dropped a short pass over the top of a defender filling the hole, allowing Clayton Lund (#6) to run on to the mark, screened by a fellow forward. A goal from 25m resulted and the match was running to the seedings.
The Chiefs finally goaled in somewhat confusing circumstances when #30 (unlisted) marked around 30m out, no certainty for the Tongans it seemed. As he came in to kick the Canadian on the mark made a throwing action, possibly came forward, and maybe the Tongan had run too close. Either way, a 25m penalty was applied, and the Tongan goaled from the goalsquare. The feeling on the Canadian bench was that the umpire had penalised the player for overly demonstrative actions on the mark (seen about once in 10 years in the AFL), and trying to be positive told themselves aloud "now we know" and moved on.
Tonga cleared from the centre again but captain Clayton Holmes (#4) bravely marked going back with the flight. Ominously for Canada the Chiefs were getting much more of the ball but their terrible kicking into the forward line and on goal was hurting them. A quick snap shot to Mana Lavemai (#8) put Tonga clear at the first break, 2.5 to 2.0.
The trend of Tongan dominance continued in the second quarter, and Simote Taunga (#18) stood tall to take a great contested mark then cooly slotted it from 50m, never missing. The play then spent a lot of time going between the respective half forward lines. Tonga's Pau'u Mahina (#11) was reading the play well and taking defensive marks. Fleming came up the field, doing some rucking work and probably looking for supply. The Canadians were now being as wasteful as the Tongans in going forward, with good plays ruined by kicks straight to the opposition even when under relatively little pressure.
At half time there was little progress from either side, Tonga 3.7 to Canada 2.0.
In the third term Taunga (#18) marked and steered the ball through from 30m as Tonga kicked towards the city end again. A sharked loose ball after a throw in was goaled by #33 (unlisted) for Tonga and the low scoring game appeared to be getting out of the Northwind's reach. Their hopes were raised when #33 marked and received 25m to again goal.
More chances to each side came and went, including Tongan's Tuaefe (#17) hitting the post from a running attempt in front. Canadian Victor Cinco (#5) had his shot fall short before #30 (unlisted) goaled but the margin was still large for these shortened games (17.5 min quarters, no time on) at the last break, 6.9 to 4.0.
The Tongans left their huddle with a loud "Toooonga!!!!" but it was Canada who scored first, a wonderful effort from Ewan Williams (#13) from Ontario's central Blues who swooped on the ball in the right forward pocket and curled it across his body for a morale lifter. The Northwind was still alive and a pumped up bench gave voice to the emotion.
Remarkably when Canada's Kyle Graham (#80) from the Quebec Saints marked still 30m out he fist pumped the air but his confidence was well placed as he went back and goaled. Several points had brought the margin to just 7 but time was against the comeback. A mark at 50m would be the last roll of the dice and the player handed off to Fleming whose kick sailed through for a point and the siren sounded leaving the margin at 6 points.
Unfortunately a Tongan player, perhaps not well versed in footy culture that when the siren sounds the hostility ends, let Fleming know all about the loss. The Canadian responded with a shove and a melee started, with our spot fires breaking out and at one stage it looked like there might be an all in brawl. With members of the crowd shouting "just shake hands" sanity prevailed and indeed the players then lined up to do shake hands before the Chiefs went into full celebrations.
Tonga 6.10 (46) def Canada 6.4 (40)
Tonga – S. Taunga 2, K. Tuaefe , M. Kolo, S. Langi
Canada – K. Graham 2, F. Lussier , C. Lund , E. Williams , S. Fleming
Tonga – S. Nau, P. Mahina, H. Fisitalia, K. Tuaefe, S. Taunga, T. Fihaki
Canada – J. Settle, S. Rutledge, S. Fleming, K. La, F. Lussier, K. Graham
World Footy News