Queensland Reds recruit Suliasi Vunivalu has wowed fans and pundits by almost scoring with his first touch in Super Rugby AU.
Fellow code-hopper Brad Thorn injected the former NRL star off the bench late in the Reds’ thrilling 23-21 win over the Melbourne Rebels with instructions to “run hard, hit hard.”
Vunivalu listened, nearly embarrassing Joe Powell with his pace as he scorched after a kick with five points in mind.
The Rebels halfback got his boot to the ball just in time as the former Melbourne Storm man swooped in the in goal to claim a try.
Replays spoiled the party at Suncorp Stadium but it was a tantalising taste of what is to come from a man who lives on highlight reels.
“He’s honesty a freak, the pace that he has,” Stan Sport commentator and dual international Allana Ferguson said.
“Watching it on TV is incredible but when you’re on the field, on the sideline close to him, he just absolutely flies. So it doesn’t surprise me that that happened.
“He does things that are just insane. And it’s purely because of his speed and his strength and his power that he’s able to do it. It’s quite incredible and we’ll see more moments like that from Suliasi Vunivalu this season.”
However, there are some serious matters outstanding.
Vunivalu was stood down for the opening round after being charged with common assault.
Police allege that Vunivalu struck a security guard in the face while intoxicated in Brisbane on January 30.
But Reds coach Thorn has opted to utilise his star recruit before his court appearance in April.
“That’s a small taste of the athletic prowess that he’ll bring the game,” former Wallaby Morgan Turinui said on Stan Sport.
“Now the onus is also on how the Reds get him into the game.
“We want to see him more more and more. If you’re a Reds supporter – he’s going to be great for them.”
All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens urged the Reds to continue to ease him into Super Rugby, despite Vunivalu having played the 15 man code throughout his school years.
“You might have played rugby in the past but just getting used to the speed and the different game again, it takes some time,” Mehrtens said.
“We look at a lot of situations that could have been better managed – Benji Marshall’s the prime example for me. When he went across it could have been better managed and I thought that was a chance wasted.
“I don’t think rushing these guys in benefits anyone.”
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