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Right Place, Right Time: The story of game-winning Hurricanes prop Pasilio Tosi

By Adam Julian
Pasilio Tosi celebrates scoring the Hurricanes try. Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

TAB odds on Hurricanes reserve prop Pasilio Tosi scoring the winning try off the bench, and in extra time, in a 38-33 Super Rugby Pacific victory over the Reds on Sunday were so long they didn’t exist.

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In a wild match, the Hurricanes led three times, the Reds four times. The scores were level on five other occasions. Tosi broke the deadlock and won the game. It was the Hurricanes’ 200th away game (93 wins).

“I don’t want to take all the credit. Golden point was so fast, so desperate. Big ups to all the boys for keeping their composure, building phases, and putting me in the right place at the right time. All I did, literally was catch the ball and fall over the line,” Tosi told RugbyPass.

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“That description might change in 20 years with a few beers,” he laughed.

“I’ve never played a golden point match before. I was nervous but I backed the boys.

“In regulation time we were stuck on their five. We planned to get the ball back, but that didn’t happen.”

A lot of things didn’t go according to plan for the Hurricanes. The Reds’ five tries in this match equalled their record against the Hurricanes which was first set in 1996 and repeated in 1998.

The 33 points by the Reds is their highest score against the Hurricanes in Australia.

The Hurricanes coaches appeared to play reserve roulette. All Blacks halfback Cam Roigard was subbed shortly after scoring his second try to tie the game by second-game rookie Jordi Viljoen. His first act was a box kick so shallow it caught two unsuspecting Hurricanes offside. They were penalised, and the Reds fumbled the ball over the try line from the ensuing attack. Hooker and co-captain Asafo Aumua was also dragged with his colleague Jordie Barrett already off the field red-carded.

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“I didn’t know who the captain was but Isaia Walker-Leawere stepped up big time. He rallied us together for a pep talk and said, ‘We’ve got to do this for the bro.’ From that, I was locked in.”

“The Bro” is Jordie Barrett who became the 18th player to reach 100 matches for the Hurricanes.

With only a dozen appearances, Tosi is a long way from reaching a century. His only other try for the Hurricanes was a routine finish in a 53-12 win against Moana Pasifika in 2022.  He crashed over the line from close range after a short pass from TJ Perenara created a hole.

Tosi joined the Hurricanes in 2021. Tighthead prop, teammate, and 32-Test All Black Tyrell Lomax had been an inspiration to Tosi.

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“He’s got everything, fit around the field, strong carries, immense in the scrum. I think he’s the best prop in the country. I’m learning heaps from him and the boys. I’m grateful for any time I can get.”

Tosi was born and raised in Levin, a small town 90 minutes from Wellington. His parents are vegetable farmers and Tosi caught the rugby bug when he was eight years old.

Following two years at Horowhenua College he was encouraged by Bay of Plenty Rugby Academy staff member James Potter to attend Rotorua Boys’ High School if he “really wanted to crack it.”

Tosi was in the First XV for three years. In 2015 he was part of a side that won 22 of 25 matches including the National Top Four final. Rotorua beat defending champions Scots College, Wellington 36-27 in front of a delirious crowd on their home field.

“I didn’t actually get to play the final. There was a rule that you could only have three new-to-school players, so I had to sit out.

“I remember sitting atop the grandstand when our No.8 Kaydis Hona scored the winning try. I started barging people out of the way and ran onto the field. The whole school did but I was the first one to Kaydis.”

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Tosi was pursued by the Northland, Bay of Plenty and Southland academies. He took the “most coin” and headed south to Invercargill where he also was a teacher aide and security guard.

“I didn’t want to be a sheep and follow my mates. I wanted to do something different,” Tosi explained.

“I made lifelong friends in Southland, they’re good people down there. I played for the Marist club, and we took out the championship twice. I played a bit for Southland but I didn’t go too far.

“The best thing about Invercargill was I met my misses. Michelle and I worked together at the Loan Star. I didn’t know we had a thing for a year and a half. She plays rugby too.”

In 2020 a restless Tosi joined the China Lions in the short-lived Global Rapid Rugby bankrolled by Perth mining billionaire Andrew Forrest. The Lions were supposed to be based in Hong Kong but due to Covid were run from Rotorua. The coach was Bay Plenty head Clayton McMillan who offered Tosi a place with the Steamers.

Often a loose forward, Tosi always had the ability to carry with vigour, but his scrummaging needed work. With mentoring from stalwarts Dan Cron and Richard Watt, improvement was fast. His breakthrough performance was in a 33-32 win over Wellington. He has played 21 games in total for the Steamers, scoring three tries and making the NPC semis in 2022 and quarters in 2023.

Tosi is unusual in that when surplus to Super Rugby requirements, he plays club rugby as often as possible for Paremata-Plimmerton in the Northern suburbs of Wellington.

Paremata-Plimmerton is the club of legendary All Blacks prop and politician Ken Gray. Gray played 24 Tests between 1963 and 1969. He was so good that he’s regularly voted in Greatest All Blacks XV’s. Gray donated seven of his swapped Test jerseys to the club in 1983. In 2024 those jerseys will be cleaned, reframed, and presented to the club with details of the identities of who wore them, and the matches played in.

Tosi has been charmed by the welcoming culture which acknowledges the past and has a successful premier team at present after years of struggle. Last year Tosi played in eight victories and scored four tries helping the ‘Hammerheads’ charge into their first Jubilee Cup final. Coach, and 1999 World Rugby Under 19 Player of the Year, Gerrard Fasavalu has been key in the development of Tosi.

“I can’t speak highly enough about that club. Gerrard is a coach who loves and cares for his players. He’s someone that helps more off the field than on the field, and that’s saying something because he can really coach.”

The unbeaten Hurricanes host the undefeated Blues in the third round of Super Rugby Pacific on Saturday. Tosi has been named on the bench.

Super Rugby Extra Time Games

April 10, 2021: Chiefs 26 v Highlanders 23
Venue: Dunedin
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Winning Score: Damian McKenzie penalty goal

April 11, 2022: Crusaders: 30 v Hurricanes 27
Venue: Wellington
Referee: Paul Williams
Winning Score: David Havili drop goal.

March 25, 2022, Moana Pasifika 24 v Hurricanes 19
Venue: Auckland
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Winning Score: Danny Toala try (Ironically Toala was cut from the Hurricanes the previous season)

March 11, 2023, Force 21 v Moana Pasifika 18
Venue: Perth
Winning Score: Bryce Hegarty penalty goal. The Force had 13 players.
Referee: Jordan Way

March 3, 2023, Hurricanes 38 v Reds 33
Venue: Perth
Winning Score: Pasilio Tosi try.
Referee: Jordan Way

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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