Above: Seti Tafua and the Poneke and Northern Suburbs together after the match. Photo supplied.
In June 2012 tragedy struck Wellington rugby player Seti Tafua. Tafua injured his C5 and C6 vertebrae in a club match in Sydney, consigning the talented youngster to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Tafua has no mobility beneath the waste.
On Saturday at Evans Bay Park, two clubs that have been central to Tafua’s life, Poneke and Northern Suburbs of Sydney, met in a fundraising fixture. Played in great-spirit, the first half fumbled along, resembling a typical pre-season hit out, while the second half offered plenty of thrills.
Down 13-5, following a Faresa Tasele try from a set move, Northern Suburbs, fielding a second-string starting XV, introduced some of their top talent and elevated the match to the next level. Playing an expansive game, reserve first five-eighth Scott Daruda, who has played Super Rugby for the Reds and the Western Force, created two long-range tries to see the visitors surge ahead, 19-13. ?
Poneke, playing a forward oriented game, based on strong carries from an industrious loose forward trio, responded to the challenge and bludgeoned inside Norths’ territory. After a sustained assault on the goal line, inspirational veteran and No. 8 Misipalanui Moanaunu muscled over for a try in the corner with two minutes left, 19-18. Poneke, using their third goal kicker, Michael Sage, took the lead when the centre dramatically nailed the conversion.
However Poneke failed to retain the kick off and Norths, who were the more imaginative side with ball in hand, scored a late winner when No. 8 Sam Figg was found on the wing following a beautiful 15 metre skip-pass by halfback Tim Duchense.
For Poneke, openside flanker Greg Foe, halfback and then fullback Simon Tevita and Moanaunu were exceptional. For Norths, centre Kenny Niko was a handful as was wing Zander Pedan and fullback Lachie Creagh. Hugh Sinclar toiled hard in the forwards.
At the end of the game song broke out and Tafua became the star attraction when he presented a newly conceived Shield for the fixture. Tafua might not be able to walk, but yesterday he and his mates stood tall.
On Friday Norths played the Hurricanes Development Squad at Rugby League Park. The Hurricanes Development team featured three current Hurricanes squad members - Ardie Savea, Jack Lam and Samisoni Fisilau - and several players who have played ITM Cup rugby. In fine, sunny conditions, the home side ran out 65-21 winners.
They scored 11 tries to three. Wings Joe Hill (former Wellington Lions and ex Otago and NZ Sevens) and Tauaosi Tuimavavae (2012 St Pat's College first XV star) and lock Kaipati Gaualofa (Wellington Lions) each scored two tries. Lam and Savea also scored a try each, Savea breaking from halfway to cross just before halftime. In reply, Norths scored three converted tries, which was good reward for their competitiveness and positive intent. Friday's match raised $240 for the Seti Tafua Appeal fund.
Scores from Saturday's inaugural Seti Tafua Shield match were: Northern Surburbs: 24 (Kenny Niko, Ben Matawijow, Scott Daruda, Sam Figg tries; Daruda 2 con) Poneke 19 (Faresa Tasele, Misipalanui Moanaunu tries; Mike Cody 1 pen, 1 con, Tauasoi Tuimavave 1 pen, Michael Sage 1 pen) HT 6-5.
Hurricanes Development scorers on Friday were: Joe Hill (2), Pati Gaualofa (2), Tauasosi Tuimavavae (2), Jack Lam, Ardie Savea, Andrew Wells, Adam Hill, Nick Grigg tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 4 con; Tuimavavae con. HT: 32-7.