It was under the lights of the Northland Events Centre up in Whangarei, NZ, a town approx. 2.5 hours north of Auckland, that Canada’s national rugby team took on Tonga at the World Cup of Rugby this past Wednesday.
Brandon, Brendon, and I were stoked to be able to make an early getaway from the city that day to attend the game and cheer on the Home and Native Land in some live RWC action.
The crowd was a sea of red and white, or may we say a hillside of red and white, as an excellent turnout of Canadian and Tongan fans perched themselves on the grassy/muddy hillside that composed 70% of the stadium seating.
The Tongan fans were loud and passionnate, and the Canadians, proud and festive. From red spandex unitards, to Gretzky jerseys and many a maple leaf painted on cheeks, the Canadians weren’t afraid to show their love for the True North. A mountie, a moose, and a beaver even made an appearance at the game.
The Canadian Boys were looking sharp, rugged, and focused during warm-up.
Before the game began, the Tongan team performed a mean-as haka (in All-Blacks fashion) in front of the Canadian lads. We knew we were in for a battle.
The sun shone that afternoon as Canada kicked off to Tonga for an epic match in Pool A of the RWC. Canada was first to score a try, then Tonga, leaving a score of 10-7 for Canada at half-time.
Tonga came out hard in the second half, and we were a little worried when they pulled ahead, but the Canadian boys had no concept of give up, and rucked and mauled their way to another try, and held out til the end, despite a few questionable calls from the ref. A final score of 25-20 gave Canada the victory.
Although being close in the world rankings, it is commonly held that teams from the Southern Hemisphere have a distinct advantage over those in the Northern, especially in North America where rugby falls behind in the sporting priorities, and have not nearly as much international experience.
Tonga was supposed to handle the Canadians with ease, and were noticeably upset that no one gave the Canadians this script.
The Canadian Rugby Team is getting a lot of attention over here for their burly facial hair. The star of the match was Adam Kleeburger’s massive beard. Number 13, Chauncey O’Toole, also stood out for his speed, agility, and fluorescent orange shoes.
“I am so proud to be Canadian right now!” boasted the young lad with the hockey helmet, pictured above, after the game.
While waiting for fans to pour of out the stadium, Brendon and Brandon took a few moments to bask in the glory of Canada’s triumph.
It was really special to be in the company of several thousand other Canadians, (though I have no idea where they all came from), to witness and share in the victory of our rough and rugged Canadian rugby warriors.