Kiwis into the Hamilton dirt
included, the inspirational figure got the spines tingling before a ball was even kicked.
Having avoided doing any media during the week, it then didn’t take long for Taumalolo’s footy to do the talking either, a strong hitup in the opening set paving the way for a massive display – with the sea of red in the stands roaring whenever the big man touched the ball.
There was an early coming together with Kiwis captain Adam Blair, who had been particularly scathing of the defection, as Tonga were awarded a penalty on New Zealand’s line and Taumalolo got up with a nod and a few choice words.
Taking the opening hitup after that resulting penalty goal, Taumalolo then absolutely smashed into Jared Waerea- Hargreaves, then it was a 16th minute run which particularly stood out, as four Kiwis tacklers wrapped themselves around the hulking frame, yet still couldn’t bring him to the turf, the tree trunks pumping out metre after metre.
There was also some nice ballplaying in midfield thrown in for good measure, before Taumalolo got a spell after 29 minutes when the Kiwis scored their second try. He immediately received instructions from the sideline staff – not that he needed any, by that stage leading the team metres with a whopping 73 from five runs, and having tossed in 13 tackles.
Taumalolo got back on in the 55th minute, sprinted on for work, immediately took a hitup and the crowd were roaring for him once more.
It was as if his return sparked his troops, because back-to-back tries had them up by eight, before Fusitu’a’s late sealer had him roaring with the rest of his boys.
Jason Taumalolo leads the Sipi Tau.