There’s no question that Taqele Naiyaravoro generated more pre-arrival debate among the Warriors’ hardcore than any other signing in the club’s history. The protracted nature of the negotiations and announcement of his capture allied to the will he come / won’t he come saga that dragged on for most of the summer meant the big man was arriving with a big build up when he did finally touch down in Glasgow. Early games saw him finding his feet and combining an eye for the try line (3 scores) with an ability to get on the wrong side of the refs (yellow cards in his first 2 appearances). December was to prove his breakthrough – here are some of the reasons he was voted Warrior of the month.
Taqele was one of only 3 players who played every minute of Glasgow’s 3 games in December (the others were Tommy Seymour and Leone Nakarawa). In fact Mr. T has been ever present in the squad since debuted against the Dragons in round 4 – a streak of 12 matches which included a run of 6 straight starts. (Incidentally he still has some way to go to match the current records in the Toony Tombola era – 22 consecutive matchday squads for Leone and 10 starts in a row for John Barclay).
The home game against the Scarlets in the Champions Cup saw T get his hands on the ball more frequently than he had to that point. He carried more than any other back in December, taking the ball up 31 times across the 3 games, throwing 15 passes and 9 offloads (a much underrated part of his game). By comparison Tommy Seymour and Sean Lamont on the other wing in the same fixtures combined for 20 carries, 5 passes and just a single offload.
No-one else in the Warriors side even came close to the numbers put up by Taqele for clean breaks and defenders beaten, 21 combined – with the next highest in the squad being Leone on 9. It’ s metres gained though where the man from Yasawa Island really shows the difference he can make. He totalled 366 metres ball in hand, including a competition record 231m in the Champions Cup game with the Scarlets. He averaged 10.3m per carry – more than double what the other Glasgow wingers managed and hammered the gain line time after time.
A European hat-trick in December doubled Taqele’s try count and make him a clear leader as the top try scorer for Glasgow. The Warriors faithful will be hoping he continues in this vein. If he does then the record of 12 tries in a season, held jointly by Thom Evans and DTH van der Merwe, could well come under threat.
Magic moment of the month
Even amongst the wreckage left in his wake as he scored a hat-trick against the Scarlets it is still the try that never was that sticks in the memory. It was the moment he really embedded himself in the consciousness of the wider Glasgow support as he demonstrated exactly what he could do with a bit of space to build up a head of steam.
Congratulations to Taqele on being voted the McCrea Financial Services Warrior of the Month for December!