Tasman captain David Havili has sent a timely reminder of his class to the All Blacks selectors, after being the hat-trick hero in his side’s Mitre 10 Cup win over Waikato in Nelson on Saturday.
The 25-year-old, something of a forgotten figure in the black jersey, having played three tests off the bench in 2017, was sensational for the hosts in their 34-17 bonus-point victory in their top-of-the-table Premiership clash at Trafalgar Park.
While some excellent young backline talent has surged onto the scene in recent years, Havili will be right in the frame when All Blacks coach Ian Foster soon bolsters his initial 35-man squad by an extra 11 players for their extended stint across the Tasman for the Rugby Championship.
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Tasman captain David Havili could force his way back into a black jersey this year.
Despite his outstanding 2019 season with the Crusaders, Havili – who offers so much versatility across the backline – wasn’t required for the World Cup, and this year he’s had two separate stints on the sideline, after emergency bowel surgery and a fractured thumb.
Returning from the thumb injury at second five-eighth last weekend, he was back at fullback on Saturday, with his side’s All Blacks absent. And the skipper led from the back, if you like, with an inspirational performance which now has his side as the only unbeaten team in the Premiership division.
It took just eight minutes for Havili to stamp his mark on proceedings, with an 80-metre intercept scorcher. Showing great vision and pace to reel in a pass from Ollie Norris, he put in a gut-buster surge into the strong wind to open the game’s scoring.
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David Havili races away to score the opening try of the game in Tasman’s win over Waikato in Nelson.
With his side taking a 13-5 lead into the second half, Havili then bagged two of his team’s three second-half tries, with the second of those eventually putting away a Mooloos side who showed a hearty fightback.
On 56 minutes, a quick shift left had Havili step round Liam Coombes-Fabling to bag his double, then in the 69th minute came the hat-trick, as he latched onto a pass from Alex Nankivell and went on a brilliant 30-metre run away from the clutches of some tired visiting defenders.
Along with some fine distribution, and a particularly nice offload flick, it wasn’t just Havili’s work on attack that impressed, though, with a couple of heads-up plays on defence proving crucial when he got hand to ball – his second on 19 minutes from a Patrick Osborne offload proving a real try-saver.
His dangerous big boot was also a weapon with the wind behind the hosts in the second 40, with one pearler in particular seeing Havili carve off an 80-plus-metre – the same distance as his intercept try – monster which rolled to touch centimetres from the corner flag.
After two big wins over fellow Premiership sides, Waikato will rue their first-half handling in this one, with a heap of unforced errors stunting their progress.
They had to be content with one try to show with the big wind at their back – a well-worked 34th minute effort which saw Fletcher Smith dink over the top for Quinn Tupaea to latch onto.
They were furious at conceding right on halftime because of a not-straight lineout non-call, but the officials had a decent point not to ping Andrew Makalio’s throw as there was no contest from the visitors, and the burly hooker ended up barging over from the maul.
When Nankivell opened the second-half scoring seven minutes in – fending off Chiefs team-mate Tupaea – then Havili’s bonus-point-fetcher followed, Waikato were staring down the barrel at 27-5.
They weren’t lying down, though, with Smith sparking two tries in three minutes just after the hour-mark – first busting the line and one-handed spiral offloading for Valynce Te Whare to race in, then scoring himself after dummying and scooting from 20 metres.
But who else would have the final say but that man Havili.
AT A GLANCE
Tasman 34 (David Havili 3, Andrew Makalio, Alex Nankivell tries; Mitch Hunt 3 con, pen) def Waikato 17 (Quinn Tupaea, Valynce Te Whare, Fletcher Smith tries; Fletcher Smith con) HT: 13-5.