Otago needs Dawai to be at try-scoring best

Otago loose forward Naulia Dawai at training at Logan Park earlier this week. Photo: Gregor...
Otago loose forward Naulia Dawai at training at Logan Park earlier this week. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Naulia Dawai is back and doing what he loves to do — scoring tries.

Dawai crossed for Otago in its loss to Hawke’s Bay last week, continuing a rate of scoring tries which would leave most wingers to shame.

In his last 23 games for Otago he has scored 14 tries, well ahead of any other player in the team.

Considering many of those games were matches where he came off the bench — he has started just 14 of those 23 games — Dawai has a knack for grabbing five pointers.

The big Fijian is thrilled to be back playing for Otago, having missed last season as he was playing for Connacht in Ireland.

He went over there at the end of Otago’s 2016 season and said he enjoyed his time in Ireland, but it could have been better.

"It was a good experience and that but my second year was not that good. I got a few injuries and that kept me on the sideline," he said.

"Pat Lam was there in my first year and then Kieran Keane came in for the second year. He was a good coach but he didn’t really know my game. Then I was injured, had a hamstring and a sore back. So it was hard to get game time."

He said the game in Ireland involved a lot more video analysis and revolved around the set piece.

With his contract coming to an end, Dawai did not hesitate in returning to Dunedin and putting on the blue and gold jersey again.

"The World Cup is on next year and that is my goal . . . it was here in Otago that I made my debut for Fiji, so I jumped at the opportunity to come back."

He said getting into the Fijian team was going to be tough — there were quality Fijian loose forwards right across the world, but he would be giving it his all.

Dawai (31) missed the first game of the season against Wellington as he went home to Fiji with his wife, Rosi, as the couple welcomed their third child.

New son Asesela, who weighed in at more than 4kg, joined daughter Marcia (8) and Ana (5) in the Dawai family.

The rest of the family is back in Fiji still while dad gets to play for Otago.

Dawai will have a big role to play tonight as he starts on the openside flank for Otago against Manawatu. It is not a familiar position for Dawai, but as the game gets more physical, players have to adapt and play all forms of the game.

Otago will be hoping Dawai gets over the whitewash today as the side looks to bag its first win of the season.

Two losses in a row is not a great way to start the season, but three straight defeats will be a serious dent in the side’s hopes.

Otago has to simply be more clinical and smarter, grabbing points when they come and keeping Manawatu on the back foot.

Fine weather is forecast for Palmerston North today.

 

Mitre 10 Cup
Palmerston North, today, 5.05pm

Otago: Michael Collins (captain), Vilimoni Koroi, Sio Tomkinson, Matt Whaanga, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Kurt Hammer, Dylan Nel, Naulia Dawai, Sione Misiloi, Josh Dickson, Tom Rowe, Hisa Sasagi, Sekonaia Pole, Aki Seiuli. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Tom Hill, Donald Brighouse, Joketani Koroi, Slade McDowall, Melani Matavao, Matt Faddes, Mitchell Scott

Manawatu: Junior Laloifi, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Rob Thompson, Hamish Northcott, James Tofa, Jade Te Rure, Jamie Booth, Brice Henderson, Antonio Kiri Kiri (captain), Liam Mitchell, Tom Hughes, Nick Crosswell, Michael Alaalatoa, Tim Cadwallader, Fraser Armstrong. Reserves: Sam Stewart, Faalelei Sione, Sione Asi, Sam Slade, Brad Tucker, Kayne Hammington, Sam Malcolm, Lifeimi Mafi

Referee: Paul Williams (Taranaki)

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