Rugby: Fotuali'i puts on show for selectors

By Wynne Gray

Auckland flanker Daniel Braid heads for the first of his two tries during last night's match against Hawkes Bay at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images
Auckland flanker Daniel Braid heads for the first of his two tries during last night's match against Hawkes Bay at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

The All Black selectors have been hunting for multi-skilled players with enough class to cover several positions.

Someone with the combined gifts of Piri Weepu would do them just fine. If Hawkes Bay's Kahn Fotuali'i's details were not in the selectors' books they should be after last night's work at Eden Park.

For a huge chunk of the game he and his mates were too sharp for Auckland.

They had a chance to claim their third win of the season but Mark Jackman dragged his 40m penalty wide in the last act of the match.

The sides had to settle for a stalemate when former Hawkes Bay five-eighths Matt Berquist succeeded with a long penalty two minutes from time. It could still have been different though.

Israel Dagg hit the posts with a huge dropped goal attempt before Jackman's miss as 6428 spectators held their collective breath.

Fotuali'i played at halfback early in the ITM series but was switched to five-eighths recently. He started there last night and also filled in at halfback when Chris Eaton disappeared temporarily for some first aid.

Fotuali'i looked sharp and that crispness ran through much of Hawkes Bay's work as they searched for another win on top of last week's result against Taranaki.

They led 17-13 at the break, two tries to one ahead as Auckland played the 10 minutes before the interval a man down when prop Charlie Faumuina was sinbinned for deliberately collapsing a maul.

Auckland had a heap of possession but in fine conditions which must have seemed foreign after shocking weather for much of this series, their cohesion was awry.

Even with the Stanley brothers in midfield, the Auckland backline played like a collection of uncertain strangers.

Too often they were deep behind the advantage line which allowed the tenacious Bay defence to swallow up their hosts.

Only an individual try from skipper Daniel Braid drew any profit but Braid undid that work when he muffed the kickoff receipt and his opposing skipper Jason Shoemark scored.

Auckland's passing and timing was adrift until midway into the second half when they upped the tempo in trying to chase down victory.

For most of the season the backs have been starved of attacking duties. When they got the chance last night, they lacked cohesion. Substitutions and a glance at the scoreboard showing they were 15 points adrift midway through the second spell, seemed to create some urgency. With 12 minutes left Braid scored again from close range and the scores were level.

It was then a question of which side would blink first in the pressure. Auckland did, Jackman goaled the penalty before Berquist claimed the draw from 40m.

Auckland 34 (D Braid, W Stanley, tries; M Berquist 2 con, 5 pen)

Hawkes Bay 34 (J Shoemark, M Jackman, T Boswell-Wakefield, S Sinoti, tries; M Jackman 4 con, 2 pen) HT: 13-17

- NZ Herald

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