Kiwis carving up the north - European Champions Cup Round One
The European Champions Cup kicked off over the weekend, with a number of New Zealanders part of the action. Admittedly, one big name was missing – Dan Carter was given the weekend off by Racing 92, but the Parisian club managed to get along fine without him.
Fellow former All Black Ma’a Nonu played his part in Toulon’s thrilling win over Scarlets as well, and there is a Kiwi connection to Russian club Krasny Yar, who pulled off a shock upset of Stade Francais in the Challenge Cup. The Siberian outfit was once the team of the likes of Marty Banks, Glenn Horton and Campbell Johnstone among others, having formed a partnership with the Crusaders back in 2010 to use their facilities and provide an alternative overseas pathway for Kiwi players.
Charles Piutau, Ulster
Once again, the former Blues and All Black fullback showed why leaving NZ at the peak of your powers means you end up on lists like this more often than not. Piutau set up a crucial try for his side in their dour 19-9 win over Wasps, but was also very busy around the park – running for 117 metres on 15 carries. Wasps and former Hurricanes first five Jimmy Gopperth had plenty of work to do on the other side of the ball, making 10 tackles.
Joe Rokocoko, Racing 92
While Dan Carter watched Remi Tales take a turn in the number 10 jersey for Racing, fellow former All Black Joe Rokococko had to put in a shift on the wing in their 22-18 win over Leicester Tigers. He didn’t set the world on fire, with four carries, 35 metres gained and four tackles, but it’s still highly impressive that a 34-year-old is still competing at the highest level of European competition.
Kieron Fonotia, Ospreys
The Manu Samoa and former Crusaders midfielder is now in his second season in Wales, and had a busy game in Ospreys’ 26-21 defeat to Clermont. Fonotia had 15 carries for 87 metres, and made four tackles. Opposite him was former Chiefs and Counties-Manukau hard man Fritz Lee, who also had a high workrate. The number eight made 13 tackles, and picked up 56 metres on 12 carries.
Johnny McNicholl, Scarlets
The tightest Champions Cup game of the weekend ended in heartbreak for Scarlets, but none of the blame for that loss can be put on former Crusaders winger McNicholl. He had an outstanding game for the Welsh outfit, scoring a try off nine carries and running 75 metres in their 21-20 loss to Toulon. While McNicholl has impressed at Pro14 level, this is only his second taste of Champions Cup action and first try.
Tyler Blyendaal, Munster
Yet another Canterbury man makes our list this week, this time it’s Tyler Bleyendaal. At one stage he was being touted as the natural successor to Dan Carter, having gone through the same Christchurch Boys High School path that so many great Canterbury and All Blacks have come from. Instead, he’s ended up at Munster for the past three seasons, and kicked two crucial conversions and a penalty in their 17-all draw with Castres Olympique on Sunday. Out on the wing for the French club was former Auckland, Hurricanes, Blues, Force and Toulon (I think I got them all) player David Smith, who had 12 carries for 51 metres.
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Gavin Hastings, was playing was he? 🤔Go to comments
Let Moana go and setup Timi Samoa and a Timi Tonga. I guarantee you that the support will be even stronger than that for the Fiji Drua. You only have to remember the support from The respective communities for Mate ma Tonga and Toa Samoa in Rugby League and also the national teams in Rugby Union. Both teams would be able to field teams equal to The Fiji drua or even better.Go to comments