Saturday, July 20, 2024

Agnew: Taumalolo blasts England

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It’s a pity that the Kiwis league team are not getting full value from Jason Taumalolo for want of a decent ball distributor.

The most dynamic loose forward in the NRL, North Queensland Cowboy Taumalolo is limited to a prop’s barging role at international level because the Kiwis have so few playmaking props and second rowers who can put him through gaps.

The exception is captain Jesse Bromwich but we saw few offloads from him in this match.

Despite this the powerful Taumalolo and interchange forward Martin Taupau’s bruising runs often required three, and sometimes four defenders to stop them in Sunday’s 17-16  test win against hosts England at Huddersfield.

This was a tough, rugged arm wrestle against two big packs rather than a free-flowing match in which slick passing, speedy backs demonstrated their skills and elusiveness. But there was a lot of commitment and courageous tackling.

In the end the difference was Shaun Johnson’s late field goal after his tactical kicking kept the English pinned in their own quarter for much of the second spell.

Johnson’s 80m runaway try from an intercept was also timely, with determined wing Jordan Rapana adding a pair and fullback Jordan Kahu, so solid under the high ball, succeeding with two goals.

Once again Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris were major contributors to an excellent defensive effort, as was standoff half Thomas Leuluai who punches well above his weight.

However Leuluai will be sorely missed if the concussion he suffered against England prevents him from taking the field against favourites Australia who have three brilliant playmakers in Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Jonathan Thurston.

It’s shame the Kiwis can’t match them in this department because they are well served out wide by Solomone Kata, Jason Nightingale, Rapana and Kahu.

Unfortunately veteran Shaun Kenny-Dowall is creating nothing. Nor is he running with the strength and determination he was renowned for.

Meanwhile the All Blacks task against Ireland in Chicago could be tougher than would normally be expected if both Brodie Retallick (concussion) and Sam Whitelock (sprained ankle) are to miss this test as seems likely.

However it will be a great chance for the likes of Patrick Tuipulotu, Luke Romana and Scott Barrett to show their worth after the 125kg Tuipuloto impressed against the Pumas.

Upon the selection of the All Blacks team there could be no prouder father than Kevin “Smiley” Barrett who played so well for so long for Taranaki at lock and blindside flanker.

As a forward, Scott has similar qualities to his dad whose other sons, Beauden and Barrett, are blessed with a tad more speed.

Good to learn that coach Steve Hansen intends to start Aaron Smith after he was suspended for his antics at Christchurch Airport when, figuratively speaking, he got in the poo in the loo for his exploits with a female.

While certainly not condoning Smith’s action, it astounds me the number of people who want to join the public condemnation of celebrities who deviate from the straight and true.

The Bible tells us that just over 2000 years ago when a righteous Jewish mob prepared to stone a woman to death for adultery, Jesus told those present, “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.”

No one did.

Interestingly, no such penalty existed for men.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author

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