Tongan international Zane Kapeli put a monstrous tackle on Blues playmaker Otere Black during the Chiefs loss to the Blues in Auckland at Eden Park.
Kapeli earned his first start in the Chiefs number 7 jersey after Clayton McMillan rested most of his starters having already secured a final berth when the Blues went down 29-9 against the Crusaders.
Seemingly keen to make his presence felt in the early stages, Kapeli put a thunderous shot on Blues first five Otere Black as he was halfway through his kicking motion on a clearing kick.
The bone-crunching hit left the crowd gasping, while commentator Tony Johnson was left in awe, saying the tackle ‘absolutely mowed down’ Otere Black.
? Hit of the year?
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) May 1, 2021
The referees reviewed the legality of the tackle but deemed the timing was fine as Black hadn’t got his kick away at the point of contact, but it left the Blues pivot unable to brace for impact.
The tackle was not the first time Kapeli has made an impression with his shoulder, putting a headline-grabbing shot on England Number 8 Billy Vunipola in the pool stages on the 2019 Rugby World Cup while playing for Tonga.
England tried to cart Vunipola up for a midfield carry off a line out but he was rocked violently by the force of Kapeli. The jarring shot lifted Tonga during a first half onslaught that disrupted England’s game.
The openside flanker joined the Highlanders in 2020 but didn’t make an appearance, and joined his second Super Rugby side with the Chiefs.
In his debut Super Rugby appearance, Kapeli rated a 6.5 by RugbyPass writer Mike Rehu, who wrote that a couple of penalties hurt his overall performance.
“Started the match inauspiciously with two penalties conceded; not rolling away in the 6th minute, and a tackle penalty 13th minute,” he wrote.
“As the nerves wore off he got one of his meat missile tackles off in the 15th minute on poor Otere Black, who will be blue as well as black tomorrow.
“Then there was another missile mission, this time with ball in hand at 29 minutes as he drove within centimetres of the line. Went into lock in the second half so didn’t feature as much in the loose.
Fielding a side of largley second-stringers, the Chiefs held the Blues until a late flurry took the match away.
At 19-all with a quarter of the game to go, a Blues resurgence lead to tries to Hoskins Sotutu and a double to debutant AJ Lam, who came off the bench.
A fourth win of the season put the Blues level on points with the Chiefs but the visitors were already assured of second place and a spot in next week’s championship final against the Crusaders because of their five previous wins.
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