Bristol were beaten by Bath in The Clash last Saturday at Twickenham, but one of their players demonstrated inspiring character to take the field and play his part.
Midfielder Siale Piutau only learned hours earlier that his sister Ema, a defence lawyer from Auckland, had died following a short illness.
However, rather than pull out of the Premiership match, the Bears co-captain insisted on playing in front of a crowd of 60,000 that included his currently injured brother Charles.
Pat Lam was stoked by Piutau’s courageous show of commitment, telling the Bristol Post: “We had the sad news of Siale and Charles losing their beloved sister the day of the game.
“Straight away when I saw him the morning of the game I gave him the option to pull out of the game, but he said no. He was determined to play that game, so he played.
“That is why Siale is one of our leaders, he is a captain. Both of them [Siale and Charles] are quality people but certainly Siale is a real leader and team man. Both of them see this team as their family away from their family. We had enough cover to step up but he wanted to play.
“Charles and the rest of the family came up to support him and the rest of the team, so I spoke with him then. They will both head back home [to Auckland] for the funeral this week, back home with all their family. Our condolences, best wish and prayers are with the Piutau family.”
— John Evely (@JohnEvely_BPost) April 9, 2019
The 33-year-old Tongan International captain, along with 27-year-old Charles, hail from a family of five brothers and five sisters reared in Auckland by their taxi driver father Manako and rest-home nurse mother Melenaite.
Neither of the Piutau brothers will be involved in Bristol’s next match, Saturday’s league tussle with Saracens. “Once we knew when the funeral was we made plans. Pacific Island weddings are Friday, Saturday and then different services on the Sunday, so they will get down for that then get back,” explained Lam.
“They should be back early the following week. We don’t have a game that week, we have Premiership Rugby Shield game against Bath but he will not be involved – Siale has had a lot of rugby.
“Charles is able to continue his recovery while he is away. The medical team and S&C team gave him his programme and there are people down there able to help him out with that. He is coming along quite nicely. He is on track and going well, I can guarantee he will be playing before the end of the season.”
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