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