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WOLLONGONG, Australia — Following on from games in cities such as Perth, Adelaide and Townsville, the 2003 Rugby World Cup hit another non-rugby union town when the steel city of Wollongong hosted the game that decided which team would finish last in Group D.

In a game that almost saw the first fatality of the tournament when a sea gull was hit by a kick ahead from Canadian winger Winston Stanley, Canada proved too strong for Tonga, winning 24-7 at WIN Stadium on Wednesday night.

“Tonga really took it to us in the first half and we were lucky to escape,” said Stanley. “It’s a great way to end the tournament.”

The stadium, deep in the heart of rugby league country in Illawara, is probably the only stadium in the world that is situated right on the beach, and the flock of gulls patrolling the field looking for a spot of dinner were in constant danger as the two teams made the most of the strong southwesterly wind.

Bob Ross opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a simple penalty from right in front of the posts, but the breeze was soon having an influence and Pierre Hola, who plays for Kobe Steel, missed from an identical position at the other end of the field.

The whistle of referee Alain Rolland dominated the first quarter of the game, and with the elements clearly favoring the Canadians the contest was mostly spent in the Tongan half of the field.

However, in their first foray into the Canadian 22, Tongan captain Inoke Afeaki, who plays his club rugby for Secom, rolled over from a line out five meters out to score the first try of the night. Hola added the extra two points and Tonga led 7-3 after 17 minutes.

Ross managed to avoid any flying or static gulls in the 23rd and 35th minutes as Canada regained the lead, but the two-point margin seemed very fragile on a night when the breeze should have been worth at least 15 points.

The second half saw Canada keep the ball tight and recycle quick ball for its backs, thereby preventing Hola and the Tongans from using the wind, and a great touch finder from Ross in the 50th minute set up the Canadians five meters out.

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