Rugby: 'Twisty' ready to turn it on

By Greg Taipari

Props are no longer just the fat men on the paddock who run from ruck to ruck making up the numbers.

They have become stars in their own rights. You only have to look as far as Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo, a scoring machine, who scored an incredible six tries in Super rugby this season.

Another prop starting to make a name for himself in the try scoring department is Bay of Plenty frontrower Tristan Moran. Known to his mates as "Twisty", the 29-year-old touched down twice for the Steamers in their win over Otago in Rotorua last week.

But Moran was modest about his try scoring abilities.

"It was probably more just in the right place at the right time, capitalising on some of the great work the boys were doing," Moran said.

"I mean, our kick chase was pretty good and we put them under pressure and it probably could have been anyone, who stood there and picked the ball up and put it over the line."

But it's not just on the scoreboard where he and his fellow props Greg Pleasant-Tait, Josh Hohneck and Keepa Mewett are making an impact. It's at the breakdown.

The front row, including hookers John Pareanga and Dan Perrin, have become an extra loose forward for the Steamers this season. Often one of the first to the tackle, the big boys have been doing their share of turning over opposition ball.

The second half of last Thursday night's match, was a standout for the blue and gold. Moran and co used every ounce of their hulking frames to help hold up the Otago tackler while his vulture like loose forward trio of Tanerau Latimer, Sam Cane and Luke Braid zeroed in on the ball.

Born in Blenheim, Moran is both a tighthead or loosehead prop. He said it was important to have a multiple set of skills.

"I think you're always going to pick your props at the higher level on their core roles. I mean, set piece and clean out are always crucial for the teams, you've got to have the ball for a start.

"But there are generic skills that are being more adapted for each player, where you can see backs ripping ball off forwards and probably the sizes [of players] are coming together a bit more. But I think if you look at the top end, props like the Franks [brothers] and the Woodcocks are very, very good at their core roles and that's what makes them good."

Traditionally a weak point in the Steamers game, their scrum had a little mongrel about it against Otago, something that was lacking against Taranaki the week before.

"We started off the first 10 or 15 minutes against Taranaki all right. But we probably got a head of ourselves and lost that consistency. At this level you've got to do the basics well. And if you can't retain the ball, you're not going to win many games and we identified that during the week and that was a real concern for us so we addressed it. It wasn't perfect [against Otago] ... but as the game went on we seemed to gain that continuity and clean that area up."

The Steamers travel to Pukekohe to take on leading championship side Counties Manukau who overpowered North Harbour in their last outing at North Harbour Stadium.

Steamers coach Kevin Schuler will be wanting a repeat second half performance from his side who managed to shut down any Otago's attacking forays.

Counties Manukau are a threat right across the field and with their back three Sherwin Stowers, Frank Halai and Tim Nanai-Williams in stellar form, Bay of Plenty will need to shut down any attacking chances this trio will look to spark.

Bay of Plenty should have an edge at the breakdown and at lineout time and will need to be clinical and ruthless because a confident Counties side is a dangerous one.

Schuler's men will have to stayed switched on for the entire 80 minutes to come away with the win at Pukekohe.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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