Super Rugby Aotearoa

Super Rugby: Ngani Laumape triggers 'Newlands trampling' memory

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Ngani Laumape (Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)
Ngani Laumape (Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)
  • Ngani Laumape was like a flying ton of bricks in the Hurricanes' narrow triumph over the Blues on Saturday.
  • The never-say-die attitude of scrumhalf ace Aaron Smith was instrumental in the Highlanders' heroic late rally in Hamilton.
  • Brumbies hooker Folau Fainga'a kept up his prolific try-scoring record in their equally tense triumph over the Waratahs.

An indelible flashback for long-time devotees of rugby at doomed Newlands will be of New Zealand's super-powerhouse young wing Jonah Lomu simply "running over" England's Mike Catt in the 1995 World Cup semifinal at the famous venue.

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In Super Rugby Aotearoa on Saturday, stocky Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape rekindled some memories of that occasion as he used a combination of both subtlety and raw power to score a crackerjack early try - and then remain a constant handful - against the Blues in a near-classic encounter at the Cake Tin.

Laumape tops my performance card for the latest round of the competition; here are the recipients of "gold, silver and bronze medals" I eventually opted for, including from Super Rugby AU action across the ditch:

GOLD: NGANI LAUMAPE (Hurricanes)

It only took four minutes for 'Canes inside centre Laumape to announce himself in a major way on a pulsating contest against the visiting Blues.

A wicked shimmy out wide completely bamboozled the normally whippet-like Beauden Barrett … before the muscle-laden, 104kg customer cracked on the pace to streak for the try-line.

Bravely, the Blues' relatively slim pivot, Otere Black, did his damnedest to get in the way: but he was simply added to the unstoppable "steamroller", if you like, as Laumape gored his way over the chalk.

A 13-cap All Black but debatably overlooked for RWC 2019, Laumape (demonstrably in body language, at times) oozed intent and passion for his entire shift, sucking in defenders with his raw power to create vital space more peripherally for the Hurricanes.

He was already the player boasting the most carries in Super Rugby Aotearoa, and only underlined that prolific state of affairs here…

SILVER: AARON SMITH (Highlanders)

The legendary, ever-sharp All Black scrumhalf has a reputation for being a player who truly "goes and goes" … and his game-long appetite was to prove absolutely vital in the sun-soaked Hamilton thriller against the Chiefs on Sunday.

His visiting outfit looked seriously up against it as they went a gaping 31-7 down after 42 minutes.

But then followed a sensational 26 unanswered points by the Highlanders to snatch the spoils (33-31) after the siren, with the effervescent No 9 hugely to the fore in the fightback.

Smith, who had earlier shown his combative side in a short-lived flare-up with opposite number Brad Weber, scored a try himself in the 56th minute after a spirited run and then a second link-up in the move to squeeze over the chalk.

But he saved his best for the last: with the Chiefs probably believing they had done enough to eke out their well overdue first win of Aotearoa, Smith sniped off a lineout drive and then delivered a beautifully weighted pass for inside centre Sio Tomkinson to grab the game-swaying score near the posts.

"He laid it on a plate … like he does all day," enthused commentator and another iconic NZ scrumhalf Justin Marshall about Smith's clever tee-up.

BRONZE: FOLAU FAINGA'A (Brumbies)

It was a productive weekend for maul-managing hookers in Super Rugby: two tries came that way, for example, to the Chiefs' Bradley Slater, even if he was to end on the losing side dramatically late in Hamilton.

But Fainga'a, I felt, had an especially assertive overall game in the No 2 jersey for the Brumbies as they snatched a 24-23 triumph in Sydney over the Waratahs … a fifth successive victory over their old enemies.

The 25-year-old is not dissimilar in build, with his 106kg and low centre of power, to the Springboks' own brilliant maul controller Bongi Mbonambi, and he registered a key try in that fashion just when the 'Tahs appeared to have taken an ominous grip on proceedings.

Fainga'a's outfit were trailing 20-5 in the first half when he muscled over from a pack rumble to first breathe new life into the visitors' cause.

The 11-cap Wallaby also won a penalty over the ball at a breakdown, always seemed to be right up with vital plays, and performed his other core functions smartly in a beavering 55-minute shift on the day.

By earning his dot-down, Fainga'a also became the first Brumbies player to notch a try in each of six straight Super Rugby games - if he scores in the next, he will draw level with the Reds' former fullback Chris Latham for the tournament-wide, all-time record since inception in 1996 of seven.

*Another Bok hooker, Malcolm Marx, has also previously notched six tries in as many fixtures for the Lions.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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