Written by Max Sharp.
The scoreline of Moana Pasifika's first home game of the season, is probably a bit unfair to them. The Mt Smart Stadium-based side had to do a lot of defending, rising to the challenge. I'm proud to have bought one of their jerseys, they didn't give up and showed signs of improvement along the way to their 12-59 loss. Once match fitness after week-in-week-out rugby has improved, I get a feeling they'll be able to challenge the Hurricanes and Highlanders. Let's have a read through on who their rising stars are!
Wearing my Moana Pasifika jersey, it's comfortable! Photo: Mikayla Sharp.
Moana Pasifika Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Ezekiel Lindenmuth (4/10)
The front row were slightly sub-par, including Lindenmuth. He made a respectable 10 metres from 6 carries, making a pass and also 9 tackles. His scrummaging was the let-down of his game, he'll work hard to scrummage better next time.
Hooker - Luteru Tolai (3/10)
Tolai went MIA on attack, he did not carry on any of the four occasions he received the ball, he instead opted to pass and make an offload. 7 tackles isn't bad by any stretch, you'd just expect him to have made more considering his lack of involvement on attack. Lineout wasn't the best either. Tolai is a dilligent worker who will be better next week.
Tighthead Prop - Sekope Kepu (5/10)
A veteran of 110 tests, Kepu is the Wallabies' most-capped ever prop. His experience showed in his decision-making, but his play around the field didn't match that because of a mid-game injury. Hopefully he's okay for next week.
Lock 4 - Mike McKee (5/10)
Southland's late-bloomer is looking fit in the first season of Super Rugby he had long-since deserved. He wasn't involved with the game very much, made just 7 tackles and 3 carries. McKee was subbed off at halftime with an apparent shoulder injury, get well soon to him!
Lock 5 - Sam Slade (7/10)
He could end up being one of Samoa's most-capped players, it's encouraging to see him playing so well aged 24. Slade's 10 metres came from 3 carries, while his 10 tackles were the highest of the tight-five. Slade was also the team's most effective lineout jumper.
Blindside Flanker - Sione Tuipulotu (5/10)
Moana Pasifika didn't use Tuipulotu as a ball-carrier enough, despite his extreme talent. Tuipulotu made 8 tackles in 49 minutes before being replaced by Josh Kaifa. Please let him get involved with the game more next time, he's so good!
Openside Flanker - Solomone Funaki (7/10)
Young Tongans far-and-wide will be looking up to this man. Funaki's workrate was enormous on attack, his 24 metres and defender beaten were off only 6 carries. Didn't shy away from 2 passes either, his 12 tackles were hard-hitting too.
Number 8 - Henry Time-Stowers (8/10)
Probably would have been a 9/10 if not for being fended off by Vaa'i. Workhorse performance from the strong Samoan, who ran 29 metres and beat 2 defenders off 12 carries. Nice defence aside from the above missed tackle, a game-high 22 tackles.
Halfback - Jonathan Taumateine (7/10)
This performance was an example of performing the basics of your position well. Taumateine's game-management was good, whilst he made 10 metres and beat a defender off just 2 carries, 6 tackles isn't shabby for a little guy either!
First-Five - Christian Leali'ifano (7/10)
Well well well, the old boy's still got it! Leali'ifano had great game management too, while he ran 14 metres, beat a defender and made a clean break off 2 carries, also delivering 16 passes, an offload and 10 tackles. His experience is very useful, the team played far worse when Leali'ifano was yellow-carded in the second half.
Left Wing - Neria Foma'i (8/10)
Foma'i was voted as Player of the Match for good reasons. The late bloomer has risen from difficult circumstances and plays with awesome humility. 42 metres run, 2 defenders beaten and a clean break from 4 carries, 3 decent passes as well. This man is living proof of faith in God paying off.
Second-Five - Danny Toala (7/10)
He's done some effective off-season bulking up! This was used to good effect in the game, with 48 metres run and 2 defenders beaten off 7 carries. Smart passing, with 10, 2 offloads and 11 tackles as well. Toala's been criticised for the faults in his game but there were lots of positive moves he made as well.
Centre - Levi Aumua (5/10)
An in-form Chiefs outfit identified Aumua as a threat early on and shut him down. Aumua was confined to only 22 metres off 5 carries, though he did use them to beat 2 defenders. 9 tackles and a turnover were useful at set-piece but he went MIA inside his own half on defence.
Right Wing - Tima Fainga'anuku (4/10)
Same circumstances as Aumua, except the Chiefs confined Fainga'anuku to a mere 6 metres from 4 carries. He did make 6 tackles and a turnover, but his defence would have been more useful if he assisted the midfield as cover defence. We've all had a bad game.
Fullback - William Havili (7/10)
Tonga must have their eyes on him. Havili, younger brother of David, had a team-high 49 metres and beat 2 defenders in his 10 carries. Decent kicking, 4 passes and 4 tackles, he tried his best and good on him.
Reserve Hooker - Sam Moli (5/10)
Moli's lineout throwing has come a long way since his test debut for Tonga. Was a let down to see his lack of involvement though, 5 metres off 4 carries and 2 tackles doesn't spark a comeback. He's 23 years old and will improve.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Tau Koloamatangi (No rating)
The one-test Hong Kong prop should have been bought on sooner for his scrummaging prowess. 2 passes and 2 tackles, not enough game time to rate him on.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Joe 'Apikotoa (6/10)
C'mon mate, give the 25-year-old Hawke's Bay prop his test debut for Tonga. An able replacement for Kepu, the captain, 'Apikotoa scored a try off a powerful 3 metre drive. Good scrummaging to go with 4 passes, an offload and 3 tackles.
Reserve Lock - Alex McRobbie (4/10)
He made a lone metre of his single carry and also, 2 passes, 6 tackles and a turnover. Not enough involvement for 40 minutes. McRobbie is one of the players who need more game time in order to find form.
Reserve Loose Forward - Josh Kaifa (No rating)
It's about time Kaifa cracked Super Rugby. Was bought on at 63 minutes, not enough game time to get a rating, hopefully he plays more minutes next week.
Reserve Halfback - Ere Enari (5/10)
After a rich stream of form in 2021, it's likely that Enari was one of the players who had COVID-19 based on his shaky game-management. 16 metres and a clean break from 2 carries, he just didn't seem quite confident enough, that confidence will come with game time.
Reserve First-Five - Lincoln McClutchie (No rating)
Didn't get enough game time, was a shame to see that the team didn't start him. McClutchie is still capable enough of pushing for test caps.
Reserve Utility Back - Fine Inisi (No rating)
Inisi was subbed on for Aumua in the 63rd minute, once again, not enough game time.