Wednesday, May 22, 2024

New recruits shining

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Dalton Papalii is captain of the Blues Pacific Super Rugby team.

Any doubts the Blues Pacific Super Rugby squad have genuine depth were dispelled with their impressive seven-tries-to-one 46-16 win against rugged Moana Pasifika at Eden Park on Saturday.

With so many top players either injured or rested, new recruits have filled the breach admirably from former Crusaders old dog Luke Romano to 20-year-old youngsters Anton Segner and Corey Evans.

Under the admirable captaincy of non-stop flanker Dalton Papalii, Romano and James Tucker have strengthened the locking and lineout depth and German-born Segner, though relatively slim, is an exciting No 8 back-up for gifted All Black Hoskins Sotutu.

With Beauden Barrett, league convert Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Harry Plummer injured, first-five Stephen Perofeta has gelled beautifully with champion halfback Finlay Christie, taking excellent options whether kicking for territory or sparking backline attacks.

Outside him Evans and Bryce Heem formed a strong centre combination in the absence of Rieko Ioane with Evans accelerating for a smart try against Moana Pasifika to showcase his talent.

Blessed with dynamic wings Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea and Zarn Sullivan continuing to grow at fullback, the Blues should continue to make a strong bid for the title although the Crusaders and fiery Chiefs will also be tough.

However, with the bottom-placed Highlanders giving the defending champion Crusaders a 14-17 scare, there are no certainties.

Having won six of seven, the improved Brumbies and Reds actually lead the table from the Crusaders and Blues (five of six) but have faced easier opposition.

No one should under-estimate powerful No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula who had a titanic battle against Ardie Savea in the Chiefs’ latest 30-29 win against the Hurricanes.

He’s always been a force but this year is busier and fitter in his bid for All Black honours.

In a country blessed with exceptional hookers, Blues rake Kurt Eklund showed he’s right up there with his three tries against Moana Pasifika from rolling mauls.

Former Highlander Ash Dixon and All Blacks Dane Coles and Codie Taylor are other hookers who have perfected the same art but have not scored three in the same game at this level.

Meanwhile, what a brilliant climax to the women’s World Cup one-day cricket championship with Australia beating defending champion England by 71 runs thanks mainly to Alyssa Healy’s magnificent 170 from 138 balls at beautiful Hagley Park, Christchurch.

With Australia amassing 356-5, England’s cause looked hopeless but Nat Sciver got them to a respectable 285 thanks to her remarkable unbeaten 148.

Fittingly, Healy’s performance rates above anyone, male or female, at such a world championship with Sciver moving to third.

Having lost their first three games, England did well to make the final against a champion Australian team that won nine from nine under Meg Lanning’s superb captaincy.

Full marks to the Christchurch crowd for turning up in force after New Zealand failed to make the play-offs despite having outstanding batters of the calibre of Sophie Devine, Suzie Bates, Amelia Kerr and Amy Satterthwaite.

The trouble was they could not form strong partnerships and their bowling lacked depth.

Meanwhile having been out of action for several months recovering from hip and eye surgery, I’m back to haunt readers with my Angle, at least for a short time.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer

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