Waisake Naholo scored 3 tries in New Zealand’s Quarter Final win over England.
The All Black7s were down to just 10 players after George Tilsley was suspended for 2 games for a tip-tackle and Sam Dickson got 9 games for an eye gouge.
Both incidents happened in the tough pool match against Fiji. New Zealand’s 12-7 win put Fiji out after Fiji lost to Australia on Day#1.
I have been a little critical of Naholo in the past for not quite having the temperament for the big occasion. He’s always had the skills, the speed and the strength.
But he stepped up right when it was needed creating and finishing a hat trick in a one-sided quarter final.
Naholo broke the tackle of Christian Lewis-Pratt in is own half and ran 75 metres to open the scoring 2 minutes into the game.
Tim Mikkleson scored off a penalty and with time up in the first spell Naholo was on the end of a sweeping movement easily running in from 25m out. That gave New Zealand a 19-0 advantage at the break.
Naholo then effectively ended the contest in the second half when he cut inside Lote Raikubula, stepped Jeff Bibby and ran 55 metres.
Waisake’s pathway to Vegas
Naholo was initially included in the All Black 7s during the 2011-2012 World 7s Series making his debut in Las Vegas in 2012.
This photo was taken at the 2012 Hong Kong 7s where he looked to be well on his way to international stardom.
But the big Fijian-born wing was drafted into the Blues for the 2013 Super 12 season and so we didn’t see him play 7s until he was let go by Sir John Kirwin after just one season.
Naholo returned to the New Zealand team for the 7s World Cup in June. He was part of the winning team at the 2013 Australia 7s in October but was then dropped for the next 3 events including Las Vegas but got a late call up when Sherwin Stowers pulled up lame in the final training camp.
Before today he appeared to be ranked behind Stowers and Ambrose Curtis but he made every post a winner right when coach Sir Gordon Tietjens needed him most.
The super coach will be hoping for more magic from Naholo tomorrow.
New Zealand will play Canada in their semi-final on Day#3 in Las Vegas while South Africa will meet Samoa.