Tuigamala proves one in a million: Rugby Union

Newcastle 57 Wakefield 10
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The Independent Online
The last time Va'aiga Tuigamala took the field with Rob Andrew he lined up in the other half and started slapping those tree-trunk thighs and protruding his tongue in a less than friendly manner. Yesterday at Kingston Park, the song and dance was rather different.

Instead of leading the haka, as he did before his losing farewell as an All Black wing against Andrew and England at Twickenham in November 1993, Inga led rugby union into new territory. He did so as the sport's first pounds 1m player, and Andrew's right-hand man, among Newcastle's rampant all-international three-quarter line.

It proved to be a profitable day at the office. Andrew and his Falcons soared another big win closer to their top-flight goal, running in nine tries in the process. The only disappointment for the 3,000 crowd and the New Zealand television crew present was the new boy's failure to figure on the score-sheet.

Not that Tuigamala failed to make a splash. He had already done that last Tuesday morning, charging past his nonplussed colleagues at the end of a training session on Tynemouth beach and diving fully clothed into the ice-cold North Sea. It took him 15 seconds to achieve the rugby equivalent yesterday, gathering a loose ball just outside the home 22 and launching his 17-and-a-half-stone frame on a run that left half of the Wakefield team spreadeagled in his wake. It was a victory of sorts for the visitors, and in particular Darrall Shelford, brother of another celebrated former haka leader, Wayne, that Tuigamala was stopped short of the line.

Shelford's opposite number could have made the line for the last of his team's touchdowns, nine minutes from the end. Tuigamala, though, showed his worth as an inside-centre of unselfishness. He shipped the ball wide to John Bentley, leaving the one-time England wing with a clear run to the line for his fourth try.

It was to Wakefield's credit that Newcastle did not cut loose until just before the half-hour, when Gary Armstrong set up Andrew for the try he followed with six successful conversions. It might have been more of a two-sided thriller had injury not deprived the visitors of Michael Jackson, their outside-half and goal-kicker. But Dave Scully, a veritable scallywag of a scrum-half, had Newcastle on the back-foot for some time in the first half and engineered the first of Paul Stewart's two tries.

Once Newcastle smashed through the barricades, however, it was all one- way traffic as Bentley, Tony Underwood (twice), Andrew, Alan Tait and prop Paul Van-Zandvliet all swamped across the Wakefield line.

Newcastle: T Stimpson; J Bentley (M Shaw, 81), A Tait, V Tuigamala, T Underwood; R Andrew, G Armstrong; M Long (J Smith, 31) R Nesdale, P Van- Zandvliet, G Archer, D Weir, P Lam, D Ryan (capt), R Arnold.

Wakefield: P Massey; A McClarron, D Shelford, P Maynard (A Birkby, 53), R Thompson; P White, D Scully; P Lancaster, T Garnett, R Latham (S Pievey, 66), A Bailey (G Wilson, 48), S Croft (capt), P Stewart, D Hendry, T Manley.

Referee: C White (Gloucester).