Remember Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby prop Sona Taumalolo?

Yes the former Chiefs player and Tongan international who played 61 first class games for the Magpies from 2005 to 2011. He became a cult figure for the Chiefs and Magpies and there were always plenty of cheers when he was on the carry.

Well Big Barrel Hawke's Bay Tui substitute prop Moomooga (Ashley) Palu is generating a similar following with her powerful carries for the Tui who will take on the Otago Spirit in tomorrow's Farah Palmer Cup Championship final in Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.

"Having that level of support helps me play much better," Palu said before the Tui trained on Thursday night.


The 18-year-old Hastings Girls' High School Year 13 student started playing rugby when she was at Heretaunga Intermediate. She had a spell during her first year at secondary school and in Year 10 played for the Karamu High School girls team.

For the last three years Palu has played for the HGHS first XV and earlier this month was a member of the Hurricanes title-winning Hawke's Bay under-18 girls side. While she can prop both sides of the scrum Palu prefers the loosehead role.

"I was originally going to play rugby for fun this year. But I decided to take it seriously after Black Ferns assistant coach Wes Clarke had a chat to me earlier this month. Playing for the Black Ferns is a realistic goal for me within the next couple of years," Palu said.

She is confident the Tui can beat Otago tomorrow and gain revenge for the 34-26 loss in their only defeat of the season earlier this month.

A more than handy field athlete, particularly with the discus and shot put, Palu, has abandoned those pursuits so she can focus on her long term goal of Black Ferns selection.

After the school term finishes Palu will head to Australia for a holiday before beginning a sports and recreation course at EIT next year, which means she will be back in the Tui camp again - news Tui head coach Steve Woods and her rapidly growing fan club will welcome.

Woods will miss the services of lock Te Aroha Hunt and second five-eighth Chanel Atkin tomorrow. Hunt has work commitments in Australia and Atkin will be on a pre-booked overseas holiday.

Co-captain Hannah Brough moves from the blindside flank to lock and Te Maari MacGregor replaces Atkin.


The versatile Kathleen Brown will move from tighthead prop to blindside flanker but Woods said Brown will return to the tighthead role once Jennifer Simati empties the tank in the second half.

Black Ferns pivot Krysten Cottrell will start in her more familiar position of first five-eighth and will have the goalkicking responsibility after succeeding with three of her four attempts in the 46-31 semifinal win against Northland. Shaylee Tipiwai will replace Cottrell at fullback.

Woods agreed his troops were probably looking ahead to the final when they played the short game for long periods against Northland when the instructions were to go wide.

"Obviously we need to run closer pods for a while against Otago," Woods said.

He agreed the Tui must improve their defensive work against Otago after missing 33 tackles against Northland.

"We were going too high and not chopping. If we get that right we've got a chance," Woods added.

Former Tui, Teilah Ferguson, who scored two late tries as a substitute winger to secure Otago's win against the Bay in round-robin play, will start at centre for the Spirit.

Other dangerous backs for the hosts are first five-eighth Rosie Kelly and second five-eighth Kilisitina Moata'ane.

Providing the Hawke's Bay forwards play to their potential they should be able to dominate the Otago pack.

Teams for the 12.05pm clash:
Hawke's Bay Tui: Shaylee Tipiwai, Cortez Te Pou, Michaela Baker, Te Maari MacGregor, Tori Iosefo, Krysten Cottrell, Emma Jensen, Gemma Woods (co-captain), Niamh Jefferson, Kathleen Brown, Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, Hannah Brough (co-captain), Jennifer Simati, Forne Burkin, Whitley Mareikura. Substitutes: Forwards, Lukika Faavae, Moomooga (Ashley) Palu, Amber McKenzie, Teagan Meyer. Backs, Felicity Powdrell, Sylvia Bockman, Holly Macdonald.

Otago Spirit: Sheree Hume, Trisha Hopcroft, Teilah Ferguson, Kilisitina Moata'ane, Kiana Wereta, Rosie Kelly, Rosie Buchanan-Brown, Greer Muir, Morgan Henderson, Bree Thomas, Julia Gorinski, Kate Smith, Eilis Doyle, Tegan Hollows (captain), Isla Pringle. Substitutes: Gemma Millar, Claudia Hobbs, Paige Church, Jess Kendall, Hannah Stolba, Hinemoa Watene, Cheyenne Cunningham.