Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Burgess: Taumalolo's ironman effort epitomises Kiwi spirit

Jason Taumalolo on the charge for the Kiwis. Photo / Getty
Jason Taumalolo on the charge for the Kiwis. Photo / Getty

The Kiwis gritty performance in Sunday's 17-16 win was summed up by Jason Taumalolo's extraordinary effort.

The blockbusting lock ran himself to a standstill in Huddersfield, on the field for all but a few minutes of the match.

While Shaun Johnson and the interchange men like Martin Taupau and Adam Blair received much of the plaudits, the 2016 joint Dally M winner was immense.

After being heavily criticized for under-utilising Taumalolo in the 26-6 defeat in Perth, Kiwis coach David Kidwell seemed to overcompensate on Sunday morning, pushing Taumalolo well beyond his usual limits.

One of the biggest men on the field, Taumalolo is usually employed in bursts across a match, in horse racing parlance, more of a sprinter than a stayer.

He averaged 52 minutes this season for the Cowboys, though he did manage 60 minutes or more in five matches.

In Sunday's match, Taumalolo, wearing a long sleeved vest against the cold, played the entire first half. He consistently dragged in three or four English defenders, and did his fair share of defence in the middle of the ruck. He was finally given a break in the 47th minute, before being put back on again five minutes later when Thomas Leuluai left the field with a head knock.

At times in the final quarter he looked out on his feet, visibly struggling to get back in the defensive line as England pressured the Kiwis line. But with the team affected by other injuries, and a paucity of replacements available, Taumalolo stayed on the field.

He found his second wind three or four times, and in the last few minutes was still carrying the ball forward with great gusto.

The display illustrated what a loss Taumalolo was on last year's tour of England, and what a weapon he will be in the coming weeks.

The only question will be how much Sunday's effort took out of him, with the constant collisions with the Burgess brothers and other hard nuts in the English pack.

But it was a mature, committed display from the former Papakura Sea Eagle, who at the age of 23 is already one of the senior men in this Kiwis pack.

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- NZ Herald

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