A selection of the best players on show in Round 1 of the Pacific Challenge, with five out of six teams represented. Guess which one missed out?
1 – Hubert Buydens (Canada) The big man probably wasn’t too excited to be dealing with the humidity, but he still put in a pretty solid 68 minute shift as captain. His opposite number will still be talking about that day a few years from now.
2 – Andrew Williams (Samoa) Massive effort leading the hard men in the trenches for his country, especially in the first half. The most experienced man in the side and it showed.
3 – Kapiolani Kaufusi (Tonga) Gave Faletoi Iosi all kinds of trouble at scrum time and had several big carries in almost a full game’s effort. Another big tighthead off the Tongan production line.
4 – Manoa Tamaya (Fiji) A beast of a man who tore up the Argentine pack in the tight-loose. Put heaps of pressure on the Pampas at lineout time.
5 – Evan Olmstead (Canada) Looked right at home in the heat, flying around the pitch like an extra loose forward. Two tries and an excellent first match.
6 – Javier Ortega Desio (Argentina) One of few Argies who lived up to their reputation. Very high work rate, good in the lineout, and bagged a try later on for his efforts.
7 – John Moonlight (Canada) The sevens expert reveled in a wide open game that suited his support skills. Two tries and created at least a couple more.
8 – Nissan Aitui (Samoa) The man with the hair was absolutely everywhere. Covering kicks, making tackles, and countless hit-ups. Just edges Fijian strongman Nemani Nagusa.
9 – Gordon McRorie (Canada) Enjoyed the expansive game plan and his new halfback partnership. Nabbed a personal haul of 15 points to go with a complete performance from hand and foot.
10 – Liam Underwood (Canada) Got a bit of an armchair ride in his return to international XVs, but the class was evident throughout. Varied his game nicely and hardly put a foot wrong. Honourable mention to Ryuji Noguchi of Japan, his team’s best by a considerable distance.
11 – Phil Mackenzie (Canada) Had a point to prove to both national selectors and pro scouts, and did so in spades. Tremendous effort on both sides of the ball, and three tries. Couldn’t have asked for a better first match.
12 – Apakuki Ma’afu (Tonga) The danger man for his side, made the gain line every time with his speed, strength, and footwork. Enjoyed a fun battle with impressive opposite Faialaga Afamasaga.
13 – Conor Trainor (Canada) Two tries in a stormy performance that mixed the sublime with the ridiculous. The Japanese defenders were just as bewildered as the viewers.
14 – Santiago Cordero (Argentina) Showed his class once again with several darting runs. Kept his opposite number quiet and stepped inside three defenders to set up a cracking try for Manuel Montero.
15 – Henry Suau’u (Samoa) Rugby league convert showed plenty of gas and a useful step. Good cover defense and nearly scored a try on one of several breaks.