Win­ning tastes so sweet for Savea

The Dominion Post - - Sport - HAMISH BIDWELL

Think pro­vin­cial rugby tro­phies have lost their lus­tre? Try telling Ju­lian Savea. First tier, se­cond tier; he doesn’t care. Seventeen years is a long time for a union such as Welling­ton to go with­out a ti­tle. Think of some of the play­ers - Ma’a Nonu, Piri Weepu, Con­rad Smith, Cory Jane, Jeremy Thrush, Neemia Tialata, Vic­tor Vito and Dane Coles quickly come to mind - that Savea has looked up to and played along­side, who never did what this Lions team did on Fri­day night.

Lit­tle won­der he was so taken with Fri­day’s 59-45, ex­tra-time win over Bay of Plenty in the pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship fi­nal.

‘‘It’s quite up there. Def­i­nitely [one of the] top-five best mo­ments in my life,’’ Savea said.

This is a fa­ther, a hus­band, a Rugby World Cup and Su­per Rugby ti­tle-win­ner too.

But in this day and age where rugby is very much a job for New Zealand’s top play­ers, achiev­ing things for the clubs and prov­inces that helped make them who they are is a deeply per­sonal thing. It’s a con­nec­tion to a time in their lives when they played for love and pride.

Nine times Welling­ton had lost fi­nals, in­clud­ing the eight suf­fered since beat­ing Can­ter­bury in the 2000 de­cider. Plenty of good play­ers had willed them­selves to be the ones to right Welling­ton’s grand fi­nal wrongs and all had failed un­til Fri­day.

‘‘It is pretty big. We haven’t won at all and we’ve al­ways fallen at that last hur­dle. It’s a re­lief that we were ac­tu­ally able to win one,’’ said Savea.

‘‘Ev­ery­one knew that we were ca­pa­ble of get­ting to the fi­nal, it was just that last hur­dle and his­tory told that we couldn’t win. So there was that lit­tle bit of doubt there and I’m just glad we’ve put that doubt away and have be­lieved and played the way we can.

‘‘The boys have ex­pe­ri­enced fi­nals footy and that feel­ing of ac­tu­ally win­ning and they know what it takes and they won’t let that stan­dard drop. We’ve put that stake in the ground and we can’t go back­wards. It’s as sim­ple as that.’’

It would be nice to hope the same is true for Savea. Play­ing on his favoured right wing, and away from the level of scru­tiny he can get at Su­per and All Blacks level, he’s looked very good for Welling­ton.

Next up is a game for the Bar­bar­ians against the All Blacks in Lon­don on Sun­day (NZT), which he wasn’t keen to dis­cuss. He’s hap­pier for ac­tions to speak louder than words.

PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT

Ju­lian Savea finds him­self at the cen­tre of his team-mates’ cel­e­bra­tions dur­ing Welling­ton’s breath-tak­ing win over Bay of Plenty.

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