Nili Latu is one of the great warriors of rugby and, even at 35, still has plenty to offer.
That much was clear with his last gasp try to help Newcastle Falcons to a 24-22 win over Northampton in round 10 of the Aviva Premiership.
Latu had 13 minutes off the bench, but has started more often than not at No 8 for the Falcons. His coach Dean Richards, himself an indefatigable loose forward, if built along less dynamic lines than Latu, would have approved of Latu’s low body position for the driving, close range try.
Latu only played the last of his 48 tests for Ikale Tahi in July. His international and clubmate Tane Takalua kicked the easy conversion for the win. Earlier, wing Sinoti Sinoti had shown a refusal to be tackled with a bullocking try, while Sinoti gave the last pass for Josh Matavesi’s score.
Kiwi-born Dylan Hartley scored a try for Saints, while Piers Francis slotted two goals off the bench. Ahsee Tuala strolled over for a try, but it was ruled out by the TMO for an earlier knock-on.
Jimmy Gopperth kicked four decisive goals for Wasps in their 32-25 victory over Leicester, whose squad included former Hawke’s Bay and Samoa prop Logovi’i Mulipola, Mike FitzGerald, Valentino Mapapalangi and Telusa Veainu.
The Kiwi quartet of John Afoa, Josh Hohneck, Jeremy Thrush and Willi Heinz were front and centre for Gloucester, who are working their way up the Premiership table after a 39-15 win over London Irish. Lock Filo Paulo scored a try for the Exiles, who also started James Marshall and Mike Coman.
Bryn Evans’ Sale edged Bryce Heem’s Worcester 18-14, while a Thomas Waldrom try helped leaders Exeter to a 42-29 result over Bath, who fielded Paul Grant, Anthony Perenise and Kahn Fotuali’i.
Mat Luamanu’s Harlequins edged Sean Maitland’s Saracens 20-19.
In the Guinness PRO14, Dave Rennie’s Glasgow Warriors beat Cardiff Blues 40-16. Lelia Masaga, Callum Gibbins, Siua Halanukonuka and Samuela Vunisa, who scored a try, all featured for the victors. Gareth Anscombe (at fullback), Nick Williams and Rey Lee-Lo all turned out for the Blues, while former (Auckland) Blues prop Taufa’ao Filise copped a red card.
Ulster, with Charlie Piutau and Sean Reidy in the mix, drew 32-all with Dragons, while Johnny McNicholl’s Scarlets lost 28-21 to the Cheetahs.
Rhys Marshall’s Munster dispatched Kieron Fonotia’s Ospreys 36-10, while Pita Ahki’s Connacht went down 24-10 to Zebre.
Phil Burleigh and Simon Berghan enjoyed a 48-21 away win for Edinburgh at the Southern Kings.
James Lowe made a fine debut for Leinster, the left wing scoring a brace in the 36-10 win over Treviso, for whom Marty Banks, Whetu Douglas, Nasi Manu and 2017 Blues hooker Hame Faiva featured.
In the French Top 14, Malakai Fekitoa and Alby Mathewson helped Toulon to a 39-11 victory over Lyon. Toby Arnold, Rudi Wulf, Toa Halafihi and Mike Harris played for the vanquished.
A Quentin MacDonald try and five goals to Ben Botica were insufficient as Oyonnax lost 33-30 to Brive.
Colin Slade and Tom Taylor shared six goals in Pau’s 27-17 win over Bordeaux-Begles. Others to feature for Pau were Conrad Smith, Benson Stanley, Frank Halai, Peter Saili and Jamie Mackintosh. Fa’asiu Fuatai scored a try for the opposition, while Ben Volavola popped up off the bench.
David Smith’s Castres won the local derby 41-31 over bigger neighbours Toulouse, for whom Charlie Faumuina was again at tighthead.
Aaron Cruden’s Montpellier fell 26-10 to leaders La Rochelle, whose line-up included Rene Ranger, Uini Atonio, Jason Eaton, Victor Vito and Hikairo Forbes.
Tony Ensor and prop Siegfried Fisi’ihoi appeared for Stade Francais in the 27-17 Parisian derby win over Racing-Metro. No 8 So’otala Fa’aso’o scored a try and incurred a yellow card for the latter.
Luke McAlister – formerly of Toulouse and Toulon – has popped up at Clermont, kicking four goals in the 35-26 victory over Agen. Les Jaunards, who are said to have signed Tim Nanai-Williams for the 2018-19 season, fielded Isaia Toeava at fullback. George Tilsley ran in a hat-trick for Agen.
This weekend sees round three of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
*Hunterville’s very own Hadleigh Parkes had a dream debut for Wales. The midfielder, regarded as something of a nomadic rugby journeyman in New Zealand, scored a double and took the man of the match honours in the 24-22 win over South Africa.
Parkes has just qualified on residency after three years of consistent form for Wayne Pivac’s Scarlets, where his low error rate is highly valued.
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