Mike Tamoaieta's moment of magic in Brisbane
In a sport where big men are known purely for their physical qualities, Mike Tamoaieta provided a point of difference.
The Blues and North Harbour prop, whose sudden death has sent shockwaves throughout the rugby world, got through his work in the tight whenever he was plying his trade in Super Rugby or the Mitre 10 Cup, cleaning out rucks and pushing hard in scrums.
However, as is the case with many front rowers, he cherished the rare moments on the park when he got the ball in space to prove his worth as a silky ball player.
There was no moment he would have cherished more than when he found himself in that exact moment at the Brisbane 10s last year.
The stocky, bearded prop managed to dot down under the sticks to spectacularly finish off a try that would normally be associated with an outside back.
Following a big burst down the sideline by halfback Sam Nock against the Panasonic Wild Knights, the ball was flung in-field for Dalton Papali’i, with Tamoaieta running alongside the loose forward in support.
Papali’i fed Tamoaieta the ball 30 metres from the Wild Knights’ tryline, and the latter accelerated through the defensive line, showing a good turn of pace before deceiving the opposition with a crafty dummy pass with about 15 metres to go.
With nothing but pasture between him and the tryline, he scooted on in under the crossbar, crashing over the tryline after a cheeky celebration en route to the in-goal area.
Sizzling prop try from Blues front row Mike Tamoaieta at the Brisbane 10s.
Can't get enough of that cheeky celebration and finish. pic.twitter.com/f7iGAuKwlC
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) February 12, 2018
His teammates rushed to congratulate him with beaming grins on their faces.
The speed and ball-playing ability required to score the try was so much that nobody predicted that a player like Tamoaieta could have executed that piece of play, but there he was looking immensely proud of himself for what was a quite spectacular try.
The admiration his teammates had for him was evident in that post-try celebration, and that’s why his death will be felt so sharply by his Blues teammates in Buenos Aires ahead of their clash with the Jaguares this weekend.
When they return, they will undoubtedly be back with heavy hearts, looking to pay tribute to a man who is survived by his partner, Helen, and daughter, Aihana.
The Blues are scheduled to play their next home match against the Sunwolves at QBE Stadium in Albany, a fitting piece of scheduling given it was Tamoaieta’s home ground.
It will be a sad, poignant fixture where the Blues will be hellbent on doing their teammate justice with a win on his own turf.
But there will also be a few fond memories of a man who made those teammates and all rugby followers smile with a wonderful try that appropriately summarised his skill and talent.
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