Ju­bilee Cup fi­nals berth for Norths

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

It was the AJ Va’alepu show at Kil­birnie Park on Satur­day as North­ern United stormed into Welling­ton rugby’s Ju­bilee Cup fi­nal with a dom­i­nat­ing per­for­mance over Poneke.

The 29-3 score­line can be put down to Norths’ tried-and-true for­mula – play­ers with sin­gle dig­its on their backs do­ing a ton of work, and then un­leash­ing the back­line. It was only 7-3 at the break, with Poneke com­mand­ing in the rucks and mauls, but winger Va’alepu gave them the edge af­ter run­ning on to a grub­ber kick.

In the sec­ond half he scored four more tries, mak­ing it 10 for the Ju­bilee Cup round, in­clud­ing runs of 35 me­tres and nearly 100m.

‘‘I reckon he’s the fastest player in Welling­ton rugby,’’ a chuffed Norths coach Frank Rees said. ‘‘I’m re­ally pleased for him – I’ve had a long as­so­ci­a­tion with AJ through Porirua Col­lege and as well as hav­ing that X-fac­tor, he’s a hum­ble guy.’’

For­wards Mana Faraimo and Henry Smith were out­stand­ing, as was half­back To­masi Palu, who leaves this week to play for Tonga. Rees says he has no ab­sences or in­jury con­cerns and this week the fo­cus will be on ‘‘en­joy­ing our time to­gether’’ and train­ing as they have done all sea­son.

‘‘We’ve been tak­ing it a game at a time for a while now, but we’ve planned well in ad­vance. It’s just about man­ag­ing it all. I’m lucky to have a great set of rugby play­ers. They’re a grounded lot, and all I have to do is get the se­lec­tions right. These guys have fam­i­lies and jobs, but they do the work at train­ing and when that whis­tle blows, they’re ready.’’

Norths take on a tough Ori­en­tal-Ron­go­tai at Pe­tone Re­cre­ation Ground this Sun­day, af­ter Ories ground out an 18-15 win over Hutt Old Boys-Marist. Rees says their op­po­nents, a set­tled team, are fit­ter than Ories teams of the past and have an ex­tremely strong scrum.

‘‘ They’ve got game break­ers there – our backs are small and fleet-footed, while theirs are big and strong, I don’t think they have any­one un­der six foot [tall] in their back­line. They’re go­ing for their first Ju­bilee Cup [so] they’ll be up for it.’’

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