Former top rugby player Te Rua Tipoki has admitted he repeatedly punched an unconscious man at a 2015 party in Tolaga Bay.

He pleaded guilty to assault with intent to injure midway through a jury trial in Gisborne District Court after in-chambers legal discussions.

Tipoki's father, Reihana Tipoki, 66, represented by Russell Fairbrother, QC, had been jointly charged, but has been cleared.

The jury trial began on Monday. The pair were initially charged with injuring with intent and with assaulting another man who tried to intervene. Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker changed the former charge to assault with intent to injure and the latter charge was dismissed.


The Tipokis had name suppression but it lapsed with yesterday's verdict.
Te Rua Tipoki can now also be named in relation to a drink-drive charge and an assault, arising out of incidents on April 16 last year, and to which he had already pleaded guilty.

Judge Warren Cathcart yesterday remanded Te Rua Tipoki, represented by Tiana Epati, on bail until November 21 for sentence on all charges. Judge Cathcart ordered a report into Tipoki's suitability for an electronically monitored sentence and a referral to restorative justice.

The charges stemmed from a 21st birthday party the Tipokis went to early on November 29, 2015 at a rural property near Tolaga Bay.

The Crown claimed the victim had been making his way in the dark down a farm track when he was by attacked byTe Rua Tipoki.

He was knocked unconscious by an unexpected punch and punched four or five times as he lay out cold on the ground.

The man was taken to Gisborne Hospital by ambulance for tests but did not seem to have suffered lasting injuries.

The Crown alleged Tipoki snr encouraged or supported his son in the attack, which it suggested may have been motivated by the victim confronting Te Rua Tipoki earlier, claiming he had seen him diving and taking seafood from a marine reserve the day before.

Te Rua Tipoki sent a text to an unknown person soon after the party, when a concerned friend saw him with blood on his shirt.


Te Rua Tipoki had replied, "yeah all good. This ... banged me in the nose outa the blue but I couldn't do anything cos too many people there so walked away to leave but he followed me and dad so soon as we outa everyone's sight I turned around and gave him a bit of a hiding was a bit worried cos I knocked him out but all good."

The men agreed to keep the matter quiet.

In his police interview, Te Rua Tipoki denied punching but admitted tackling the complainant who, he claimed, was threatening his father.

Tipoki jnr told the court the complainant was the aggressor, following him around the party, badgering him with his allegations of illegal fishing, before finally punching him in the nose.

Some witnesses confirmed the scene was dark, they were heavily intoxicated, and some were not sufficiently able to identify either of the Tipokis.

One witness suggested another partygoer may have punched the complainant.

Te Rua Tipoki pleaded guilty to injuring the complainant.

Both charges against Tipoki snr were dismissed.

Te Rua Tipoki