After Leone Nakarawa stormed Kingspan Stadium on the final day of day of the 2014/15 season – romping away with the Man of the Match award and the undying man-love of Stuart Barnes among other things – Warriors’ fans had to wait 154 long days before their next sighting of the Fijiweegie in the blue and black of Glasgow. The new season was almost 2 months old and the Scotstoun faithful had had to look on enviously as Leone featured 6 times for his national side over the summer and then played every minute in 4 RWC fixtures, but, after a well deserved break back home, November was always going to be the big man’s month.
Naka was an important part of the matches through this period, playing the 3rd most minutes in the pack behind skipper Jonny Gray and the machine that is Rob Harley. He started out as he meant to go on, making his mark in attack during his opening 2 games. He was directly involved in 3 of the team’s 8 tries (scoring 1 and contributing the last pass on 2 others) as they racked up back to back bonus point wins over the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues.
No-one in the Warriors squad carried the ball more than the man from Tavua during November. With 44 carries in 213 minutes (and taking into account possession and an estimate of 50% ball in play time) he took the ball up on average every 1 minute and 25 seconds – twice as frequently as the next busiest Glasgow player. Allied to his offloading skills (he accounted for a quarter of the Warriors’ OLs and more than twice as many as any other player) and ability to beat defenders (top among all forwards) this underlined his credentials as an absolute offensive weapon and potentially almost as crucial a component in Glasgow’s attack as players like Finn Russell and Mark Bennett.
Leone’s stellar start to his season with the Warriors has also seen him match compatriot and former team-mate, Niko Matawalu’s record of being named Man of the Match in 3 consecutive Pro 12 games. The lock added the awards for the Ospreys and Blues fixtures to his prize from the Grand Final and his streak remains alive with the first leg of the 1872 Cup at Murrayfield next up for Glasgow in the league. What odds on the big fella making it 4 in a row against Edinburgh just after Christmas?
Magic moment of the month
Leone’s try against the Cardiff Blues. It came from the kind of position where Glasgow have often been so wasteful in the past – 3 or 4 yards out and going through the phases. Naka identified the weakness in the centre of the Blues ruck defence – the Welshmen surely thinking the ball was too far back for someone to dive over. Naka’s extraordinary athleticism and giant mitts allowed him to fly and stretch to cover the distance, all without losing the ball – a moment captured perfectly by Ian Cook for CameraSport.
Congratulations to Leone on being voted the McCrea Financial Services Warrior of the Month for November!