Nine years after he last appeared in the tournament, legendary Fijian back Nemani Nadolo needed just one moment of magic 24 minutes into his Leicester Tigers to remind Gallagher Premiership fans of his potency.
Not since an April 3 appearance in 2011 for Exeter versus Leeds had Nadolo featured in the English league, an unfulfilled stint in Devon which he candidly reflected on last year in the acclaimed RugbyPass documentary – Nadolo – on his life and times.
Now at Leicester following a career that took him to clubs in Japan, New Zealand and France in the years that followed his Exeter exit, the 32-year-old powerhouse revelled in getting his first run at Welford Road on Wednesday night as a Tigers player.
Leicester’s struggles in recent years have been well documented, with wins in the league especially at a premium. Hammered by Bath last weekend in new coach Steve Borthwick’s second game in charge, they came into their midweek fixture against lower table London Irish adrift in eleventh place with just four wins in 15 outings.
They went on to eventually grind out the victory on a 13-7 scoreline in which the deft skill exhibited by Nadolo in the engineering of David Williams’ first-half try was crucial.
Hands. Everywhere. ??
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) August 27, 2020
Leicester appeared to have made a mess of possession off a scrum inside the Irish 22 but Nadolo, taking a hurried flick off the ground from scrum-half Ben Youngs, whipped a delicious one-handed offload out the back to George Ford to enable Tigers to exploit space out the other side of the pitch and score.
Pleased to have been involved after joining this summer from Montpellier, Nadolo later tweeted: “Privilege to get my first start in the Leicester Tigers jersey.
“It’s been six months since I last played. Glad to get through the 80 minutes. It wasn’t a pretty win but we will take it. Thank you, London Irish, for that tough contest. I’m still at Welford Road looking for my lungs.”
In his six carries over the course of his debut, Nadolo made 55 metres, enjoyed one clean break, beat three defenders and executed three offloads, including the one in the move that led to the all-important try.
It was a performance that left director of rugby Geordan Murphy salivating over their new signing. “He did a good job and looked dangerous and I’m sure he will be a crowd-pleaser when the fans are able to come back,” he said.
Privilege to get my first start in the @LeicesterTigers Jersey. It’s been 6months since I last played. Glad to get thru the 80mins. It wasn’t a pretty win but we will take it. Thank you @LiRFC for that tough contest. I’m still at Welford road looking for my lungs. ????
— nemzy (@nemani_nadolo) August 26, 2020
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