Canada suffered a heartbreaking last second defeat to Samoa in the third round of the Pacific Nations Cup on Wednesday evening in Toronto. Sakaria Taulafo’s try on full time dealt Canada their fifth straight test defeat and denied the home side a first ever victory over Samoa.
James Pritchard’s 600th test points came early as his penalty goal in the 2nd minute gave Canada an early lead, but the joy was tempered by a knee injury to captain Tyler Ardron following the ensuing kickoff. While Ardron seemed intent on staying on, it was clear he wasn’t quite right and Canadian fans will be anxiously awaiting the diagnosis of their star no8.
While the loss was a blow, it did not deter his side from continuing their fast start, and just as they had against Tonga, they struck early with a try to Nick Blevins after a quick tap from Phil Mack. The ball initially looked to have been knocked on, but the replay showed that it had in fact bounced off a knee, not the hands, which the assistant referee confirmed to award the try.
Pritchard hit the conversion, and then added a penalty in the 13th minute after Paul Perez was sent to the bin for a dangerous head-high tackle on Phil Mackenzie. The penalty goal was all Canada could muster with the man advantage, and as Perez returned to the field, Mike Stanley finally got Samoa on the board with a penalty earned from a rolling maul.
The half came with Canada’s 10 point lead intact, but it was Samoa who came out with their tails up after the intermission. After putting huge pressure on at a five metre scrum, Mack made a strange decision to pass to Mackenzie rather than clear. The ball came loose at the ruck and was pounced on by TJ Ioane, and two passes later Anthony Perenise was diving over the line.
Pritchard’s kicking started to falter and as he missed a kickable shot at goal, Stanley put over two long range efforts in a matter of minutes to first draw level, and then give Samoa their first lead of the game. Pritchard missed another kick in the 73rd minute and a comeback was starting to look unlikely, but then Canada got a break.
A huge clearing kick from Nathan Hirayama bounced awkwardly for Stanley, and Conor Trainor tapped the ball wildly back in play for Mackenzie, and the winger sped away from the surprised cover defense to score what looked like the winning try. Pritchard’s conversion was on target and stretched the lead beyond a penalty.
Another strange decision led the end, as Blevins ignored a two man overlap and instead chipped ahead, putting Djustice Sears-Duru offside and giving Samoa another chance to march back down the field, which they did, culminating in a five metre lineout. Tyler Hotson got up and looked to have nicked the lineout, but instead the ball popped loose from a collision and it was Taulafo who received the gift to pour misery on the home side.
The tournament now heads back west to Swangard Stadium in Burnaby on Monday, August 3, where Canada will play the US Eagles for 5th spot on the log, while Samoa are into the final to rematch Fiji.