Fans have taken to social media to express their awe of Highlander wing Jona Nareki following his hat-trick during the Highlanders’ 39-23 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
Nareki proved to be a crucial figure for the Highlanders in their victory as he posted some outrageous attacking numbers en route to scoring a hat-trick to take him to the top of the Super Rugby Aotearoa try-scoring leaderboard.
The first effort was a 93-metre intercept try whereby he fielded an unconvincing Bryn Gatland attacking kick right by his own tryline. A tight footrace ensued between Nareki and Jonah Lowe, but the former prevailed to score against the run of play.
In the following half, Nareki set up Shannon Frizell with what could be a contender for try of the season as he pounced on a misguided kick near his own 22 before bursting between the joint tackle attempt of Tupou Vaa’i and Sam Cane.
From there, he burst into the opposition half at pace and ploughed over the top of Brad Weber, before flinging an offload into the clutches of the supporting Frizell, who was on hand to cap off a wonderful counter-attacking move.
Not long afterwards, the Highlanders were building a nice attack and knocking on the door of the Chiefs’ 22 when the ball was flung out to Nareki, who was stationed near the middle of the park.
Slipping through one would-be tackler, the 23-year-old then sold Etene Nanai-Seturo with a dummy pass before outpacing Reuben O’Neill and powering through a Damian McKenzie cover tackle to score his second of the evening.
His third and final try was probably the easiest of the lot as he had to make a mad dash for the tryline and dot down in the corner, although it required some good finishing prowess as McKenzie and Sean Wainui scrambled across to try and stop him.
All in all, Nareki ran for an incredible 192 metres with ball in hand, beat nine defenders, made five clean breaks and threw an offload to accompany his three tries and try assist.
Highlanders head coach Tony Brown said post-match that it was the type of performance he’s come to expect of Nareki.
“He performs like that every week,” Brown said at the post-match press conference.
“He’s an outstanding winger. There’s not many small wingers in New Zealand that perform like him.
“An exceptional night tonight obviously, but for me, he performs like that every week. He’s unreal.”
Unsurprisingly, though, fans have taken to Nareki’s performance like wildfire, labelling him the All Blacks Sevens representative as “unstoppable” as the inevitable All Blacks selection discussions came to the fore.
Chiefs woes continue, now 10 straight losses. Three trys in seven second half minutes from Highlanders did the damage, Jona Nareki simply unplayable, helping them to 23-39 win.#SuperRugbyAotearoa pic.twitter.com/yyIa9ZTifK
— Conor Walker (@cavanconor) March 5, 2021
Outstanding comeback by @Highlanders superb team performance but also one of the best individual performances I've seen in a while by the majestic Jona Nareki! ???
— Finlay MacDonald (@FinMacD) March 5, 2021
Jona Nareki lighting up ? Super Rugby Aotearoa.
File it under things you love to see!
— Ollie Silverton (@olliegs64) March 5, 2021
Great game, NZ have a new superstar in Jona Nareki.
— Nick Fish (@nickfish216) March 5, 2021
Jona Nareki looked absolutely electric against the Chiefs today. Once again, New Zealand look to have another star on the wing.
— Max Henderson (@MaxyHendo) March 5, 2021
Jona Nareki had a fielder's day against Chiefs. He even went though Sam Cane ?
The New Zealand coach has quite a basket of good fruit to choose from for the 2023 Rugby World cup.
— Thor. (@Sekeaux) March 5, 2021
Still blown away by Jona Nareki's game this morning. Unit.
— Sam Edwards (@Samzyeds12) March 5, 2021
— MW Home PT (@MWHomePT) March 5, 2021
Whether or not Nareki can maintain this level of performance throughout the remainder of Super Rugby Aotearoa remains to be seen, but, if early indications are anything to go by, the Highlanders have a frightening prospect on their hands.
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