Former Samoan 15s and sevens representative Fa'alemiga Selesele was an influential figure as the Hawke's Bay Samoans rugby side won the High Commission Cup for the third time in four years on Saturday.
"His carries were powerful and you could just feel his presence as an international player," veteran Hawke's Bay Samoans hooker and team operational manager Nathan Pulega said after his side's 34-30 win over defending champions Whanganui Samoans in Levin.
As the score suggests it was an entertaining tussle in which there were numerous momentum swings. The score was 17-all at halftime.
"We did really well considering we only had the starting XV and two reserves," Pulega said as he regained his breath after 70 minutes of action.
Along with former Magpie Selesele, 30, Taradale colts loosie Jason Tufuga was the pick of the Hawke's Bay players. He was full of authority as a winger.
Fullback Titiona Taa Moleli and captain and centre Misipati Lealaisalanoa both scored two tries each for the Bay team. Winger Alevine Utumapu and halfback Sami Lauano scored one each and Lauano's brother and first five-eighth Ioane Lauano kicked two conversions.
This victory completed an unbeaten season for the Hawke's Bay Samoans who earlier this month beat the Manawatu Samoans and Horowhenua-Kapiti Samoans.
The Hawke's Bay under-19 rugby side has to beat their Wellington counterparts in the capital next week to secure a top eight berth at their national tournament in Taupo next month.
Hawke's Bay were beaten 15-5 by Manawatu at Napier's Park Island on Saturday. Manawatu had first use of the strong wind and led 15-0 at halftime.
Tighthead prop Patrick Teddy had another strong outing for the hosts. Openside flanker Josh Gimblett was again a workaholic.
Centre Gideon Kautai made the most of his attacking opportunities in the Bay backline and shone with his defensive reads. Substitute Damarus Hokianga provided quality impact and plenty of physicality in both the hooker and blindside flanker positions.
Busy No 8 Liam Udy-Johns scored the Bay's try. The national under-19 tournament will be played from September 7-14.