Tu’u turns it on in gutsy Highlanders effort

Marino Mikaele Tu’u makes a break during another impressive display for the Highlanders. Photo:...
Marino Mikaele Tu’u makes a break during another impressive display for the Highlanders. Photo: Getty Images
Highlanders No 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u is making statements on the field but it comes on the back of ticking all the right boxes off the field.

The big Hawke’s Bay man was again to the fore in a gutsy Highlanders effort, which ultimately came up short against the Blues, the home team winning 27-24 after leading 22-10 at the break.

Tu’u had another standout game, grabbing a couple of turnover penalties and making some good metres with the ball in hand.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger put Tu’u’s progress down to him having got to grips with being a professional player.

"He is playing good rugby and we’re really proud of him. For him it is about becoming a good professional. He’s made the shift to the next level, around preparation, and he is being rewarded with that with some fine performances," Mauger said.

"He goes deep into his preparation — spends a lot of time on the computer, understanding what his role is about and how he can make an impact on the game. He is prepared to learn and has really nailed some parts of his game.

"He really cares about this team and has been doing things really well. He is leading the charge and taken other guys along with him. I thought Shannon [Frizell] was outstanding again and Dillon Hunt is also playing some really good rugby. Our loose trio are playing well."

Tu’u shaded his opposite, Hoskins Sotutu, in the match, where the Highlanders as a team were hot and cold.

It was right in the game at 10-10 with quarter of an hour left in the first half.

But a couple of forgettable moments from fullback Scott Gregory led to Blues tries. His kick was charged down and Dalton Papalii scored and then a poor clearing kick gave Caleb Clarke time to run and he set up Rieko Ioane for the try.

The Highlanders though came back well in the second half.

Mitch Hunt scored a try with a nice dummy past a couple of forwards and Frizell then scored near the hour mark as great body position got him over the line.

The Highlanders were ahead but Dalton Papalii went over from a drive near the line and managed to hold at the end.

Best for the Highlanders were the loose forwards, while hooker Ash Dixon and lock Josh Dickson were also good performers. Hunt showed some nice touches, as did centre Rob Thompson.


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