SPORTS

Nareki ‘Fine’ For Super Final

The Nakoronawa, Nakasaleka, Kadavu speedster and Lekutu, Bua native Sotutu are likely to make the starting lineup after an impressive season for their teams.
14 Jun 2021 12:18
Nareki ‘Fine’ For Super Final
Jona Nareki.

The Highlanders are hopeful that Jona Nareki and Pari Pari Parkinson will both be ready for the Super Rugby Trans Tasman final despite injury scares during the 33-12 win against the Brumbies last week.

And the southern-based outfit are on the roll to face the Hoskins Sotutu’s Blues at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday.

The Nakoronawa, Nakasaleka, Kadavu speedster and Lekutu, Bua native Sotutu are likely to make the starting lineup after an impressive season for their teams.

The Crusaders’ 52-26 win against the Rebels on Saturday guarantees the Highlanders a spot in the final, but their in-form wing and dominant lock left the field just before the hour mark in Canberra on Friday, with both troubled by shoulder issues.

Nareki had received treatment on the shoulder at the start of the second half. But Coach Clarke Dermody still remained hopeful that his No. 11 could play through the discomfort in the decider.

“Jona had a sore shoulder all week so he toughed it out for us,” Dermody said.

“We need him on the field. We know that he’s one of our better players.

“Him being on the field for as long as he could really set us up, and then we were able to bring Sam Gilbert on to inject some energy at the end of the game.

“As far as I know he’ll be fine. He was all smiles at the end of the game. Rugby players are never 100 per cent, so I’m sure he will be fine.”

Nareki has been the Highlanders’ sharpest attacking weapon all year, and to lose him for the final would be a significant blow.

Former coach Tony Brown rated Nareki highly.

“He performs like that every week,” Brown said.

“He’s an outstanding winger. There’s not many small wingers in New Zealand that perform like him.”

With maternal links to Naduri, Nadroga and known for his evasiveness and game-breaking abilities, Nareki debuted for the Highlanders last year after an impressive season with Otago in the Mitre 10 Cup.

He also represented New Zealand at the 2018 Rugby Sevens World Cup (Melrose Cup) in San Francisco where they eliminated Fiji 22-17 in the semifinal. Nareki brilliant offload allowed Joe Ravouvou to score his second and sealed the win.

Parkinson’s injury is also a concern. The Maori All Blacks lock played his best game of the Super Rugby Trans Tasman against the Brumbies, repeatedly carrying defenders with him over the advantage line as he lowered his big frame in contact.

Blues ‘disappointing finish’

The Blues downed the Western Force 31-21 in a game of two halves on Saturday. Four unanswered tries in the first half, including two for loose forward Sotutu, all but secured the Blues a first home Super Rugby final since they won their third title in the international competition in 2003.

The winless Force, who had played a role in the make-up of the final by denying the Crusaders a crucial bonus point with a late try last week, were unable to contain the powerful Aucklanders before half-time but came out firing after the break.

Tries from hooker Feleti Kaitu, centre Tevita Kuridrani and Irish fullback Rob Kearney got them on the board but a stunning upset that would have sent the Crusaders into the final never looked like a realistic prospect.

“We’ll be happy with the first half but it’s fair to say we didn’t turn up in the second,” said Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu.

“It’s quite disappointing to finish up like that but we can’t dwell on that too much.

“We’ve got to be happy with the win and a home final.”

The Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders — all unbeaten — finished tied on 23 competition points but separated in the standings by aggregate points’ differential.

Reece: Boys not so happy

Earlier at Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval, Fijian flyer Sevu Reece scored a hat-trick as the Crusaders thrashed the Melbourne Rebels 52- 26.

The Super Rugby Aotearoa champions, however, had needed to win by 33 points or more to inch ahead of the Highlanders in the standings.

They moved to within seven points of their target with seven minutes left to play but were unable to snatch a ninth try which, with a conversion, would have booked them a spot in the title decider.

“Heading into this game, we knew what we needed to get,” said All Blacks winger Reece.

“We’ll take the win, but a lot of heads are down, a lot of not so happy boys.”

Feedback: oseab@fijisun.com.fj



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