Kiwis are making their presence felt in November via several international teams in the north, and not just the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks.
The first to catch the eye in the international window is Ireland’s debutant midfielder Bundee Aki. The 27-year-old former Chiefs and Steelers midfielder made a telling first play at this level, and he didn’t even have the ball. He put a heavy right shoulder into the midriff of Springboks bookend Coenie Oosthuizen, driving the big prop backwards and twisting his knee. Oosthuizen had to leave the field, setting the tone for Ireland’s emphatic 38-3 victory. Aki went on to make 15 solid tackles, second only to CJ Stander on the night in Dublin.
Samoa was edged 44-38 by Scotland, but Tim Nanai-Williams, operating at first five, helped himself to 18 points, 13 off the tee and waltzing over for a simple try. North Harbour loose forward Josh Tyrell, who was in the second row with former Harbour skipper Chris Vui, scored on debut. Bay of Plenty prop Jordan Lay was also on debut for the visitors.
Italy, with Kiwis Jayden Hayward – the former Hurricanes and Taranaki midfielder – and Dean Budd – the former Blues lock – in the mix, defeated Fiji 19-10. The latter included Harbour No 10 Ben Volavola, who slotted two goals, while former Chiefs threequarter Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Steelers lock Sikeli Nabou, played. Northland prop Ropate Rinakama debuted, at 29, for the Flying Fijians.
The UK Barbarians’ 27-24 win over Tonga featured a veritable plethora of New Zealanders or those with Kiwi connections.
George Bridge and Andy Ellis (off a driving maul!) scored tries for the Baabaas, and their teammates included Vince Aso, Richard Buckman, and former All Blacks Sevens and Auckland flyer David Smith.
Two of Tonga’s tries went to former Auckland wing Afa Pakalani and current Steelers loose forward Fotu Lokotui, while the squad featured a host of New Zealand origin players such as Nafi Tuitavake, Tevita Taufui, Kali Hala, Tane Takalua, Daniel Faleafa, Maama Vaipulu, Latu Talakai and Halani Aulika.
While the three big European competitions were on a break over the weekend due to the internationals, the second round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup was in full swing.
Former North Harbour wing Ken Pisi scored a 60m intercept try for Northampton in the Saints’ 41-7 shellacking of the Dragons. Lock Michael Paterson, the man who was on the verge of the All Blacks in 2010, started in the second-row, while Teimana Harrison entered the fray off the bench.
Willi Heinz and Jeremy Thrush both crossed for tries, the latter securing the bonus point, in Gloucester’s 47-7 dismantling of London Irish. Also featuring for the West Country club were props John Afoa and Josh Hohneck.
Former Hawke’s Bay and Toulon wing Sinoti Sinoti scored a brace as Newcastle crushed a weakened Cardiff Blues 57-0, while bruising former Wellington and North Harbour No 8 Mat Luamanu crossed for a try in Harlequins’ 45-37 win over Worcester Warriors.