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Waisake Naholo debuts for Canterbury in tight win over Manawatu

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks wing Waisake Naholo has completed his return to first-class rugby in New Zealand by making his debut for Canterbury in the NPC on Saturday.


Naholo got 40 minutes off the bench for the red-and-blacks during their 25-22 victory over Manawatu in a match where he looked to have scored in the 52nd minute, only for it to be called back for a forward pass by Josh McKay.

The 30-year-old, who played 26 tests for the All Blacks between 2015 and 2018, managed a few touches throughout the second half in what was a promising return to Kiwi rugby after two injury-ridden years with Premiership club London Irish.

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Wallabies captain Michael Hooper speaks to media
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Wallabies captain Michael Hooper speaks to media

Naholo has made it clear since returning to New Zealand that he is keen on a Super Rugby comeback, and after his opening appearance in the second round of the NPC, he has laid a solid platform for achieving that goal.

The former Highlanders star wasn’t the only notable participant in Canterbury’s victory, as All Blacks midfielder Braydon Ennor also made a successful comeback from injury.

Ennor had been ruled out of New Zealand’s July test series against Tonga and Fiji due to appendicitis, and has since been released to play in the NPC and earn some game time.

That came today when he played his first match in over two months as he started at centre to form a midfield partnership with Chiefs second-five Rameka Poihipi.


Ennor’s appendicitis came after he suffered a ruptured ACL during last year’s North vs South clash, which ruled him out of action for nine months.

After such a lengthy run of injuries, the 24-year-old’s return, which lasted for 64 minutes, to action bodes well for his All Blacks selection chances as he looks to add more experience to the one test he played in against Argentina in 2019.

All Blacks boss Ian Foster will be particularly impressed with Ennor’s defensive exploits, as he laid on two big tackles and played a hand in Canterbury’s first try, scored by Chay Fihaki.

Fihaki ended the match with a brace, scoring two of his side’s four tries as Canterbury did just enough to fight off a staunch Manawatu outfit spearheaded by ex-Canterbury playmaker and one-test All Blacks pivot Brett Cameron.


The result leaves Canterbury in sixth place on the Premiership standings, while Manwatu remain at the summit of the Championship table.


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