KINGSTON, Ont. -- Canada remained unbeaten in its Pacific Nations Cup rugby debut after holding off a 14-man Tonga 36-27 in rainy Kingston on Saturday.
Four days after a first-ever win over Fiji, a Canada team with 10 changes was helped when Tonga prop Eddie Aholelei was sent off for fighting in the 34th minute. Two more Tongans were sin-binned for shoulder charges.
Tonga coach Mana Otai said Pacific Island teams were being unfairly penalized for their physical play.
"I couldn't really see why (the yellow cards were issued)," Otai said after reviewing tape of the incidents. "It's almost like, these days you know, when a black man is tackling harder than the other, it seems to be the way."
Asked if Pacific Island teams were being singled out, he said: "Absolutely. It's a perception a lot of times.
"And I think some of the foreigners that are involved in our team now are starting to see that. It's just hard to battle or fight that stereotype, I guess. But I'm not taking away the fact that at times we do, I guess, make mistakes in terms of tackling -- if I'm talking in general. But in today's game, I couldn't justify the two yellow cards."
Canada coach Kieran Crowley declined to debate the merits of the Tongan incidents.
"It was a physical game," the former All Black said. "We've got a few boys walking around pretty wounded in there and we've got to keep an eye on a couple of them, I think."
Canada finished the half only 9-7 ahead, but scored three of the next four tries to be 33-10. Tonga stormed back with three tries but could convert only one in closing within six of Canada.
James Pritchard finished the match with his fourth penalty, to go along with conversions to all three Canada tries, including his own.
"My heart stopped a couple of times there," said Canada captain Aaron Carpenter, who celebrated his 50th cap.
Canada can clinch the Pacific Nations Cup with a win in Japan on June 19. That's four days after the team plays Ireland in Toronto.
Canada 36 (Matt Evans, Sean Duke, James Pritchard tries; Pritchard 3 conversions, 4 penalties, Ciaran Hearn penalty), Tonga 27 (Lua Lokotui, Viliami Iongi, Fetu'u Vainikolo, Will Helu tries; Kurt Morath conversion, penalty, Paula Kaho conversion). HT: 9-7