Sonatane Takulua hoping for repeat of Welford Road heroics
Sonatane Takulua will be double and triple checking that one item in particular is in his kit bag when Newcastle Falcons travel to face Leicester Tigers in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership Rugby clash.
The Tongan scrum-half slotted the winning conversion with the very last kick of the Falcons’ 25-23 triumph at Welford Road in April, their first there for 20 years, but not with his own kicking tee.
“I wasn’t thinking I was going to be kicking goals that night because I was on the bench and we had two goal-kickers in the starting side, so the honest truth is that I hadn’t packed my kicking tee,” said Takulua, who was called into action to convert Ally Hogg’s last-minute try.
“When I came on from the bench our skills coach Marko [Mark Laycock] ran on during a stoppage to talk to me, because the coaches up in the box had told him to ask me if I could kick goals for the rest of the game.
“I said I could kick but that I didn’t have my own tee, and they were like ‘ok, if you think you can’.
“The tee that I use is bigger than quite a few of the other guys’ tees, so when we had the kick to win the game right at the end Marko came on with the kicking tees belonging to Juan Pablo Socino and Brett Connon. He asked which one I wanted to use, I was like ‘I’ll have both of them please’ and just stuck them on top of each other.
“It got me roughly the same height as my normal tee, and Marko was saying ‘are you sure about this mate?’
Newcastle Falcons centre Chris Harris says he and his side will not be distracted by the recent turbulence at Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership opponents, Leicester Tigers https://t.co/u9pbtNsPTv pic.twitter.com/CbCoJj5r1v
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) September 6, 2018
“Looking back it’s a bit strange, but I was remarkably calm during that time. I didn’t panic, I felt really good about taking the kick and it was honestly perfect. I went through my routine like normal, it didn’t feel any different and that feeling when the Falcons fans and the boys were cheering when it went over was just incredible.
“Still, I’ll definitely be packing my own tee for Saturday, just in case!”
Takulua’s Falcons are looking to bounce back from their opening-day defeat to champions Saracens, showing plenty of promise in the 32-21 home reverse but ultimately finishing empty-handed.
“We knew Saracens were going to come out firing but we felt we did the same, and it was frustrating not to come away with anything,” he said.
“We’re going to Leicester this weekend looking to play the same kind of way, and we believe if we do that we can get the result we want.
“We did a lot of good work last Sunday, we’ve parked that game now but there are a lot of positives we can take from it. We’ve had a good week and fixed a few things, and everyone now is just looking forward to getting back out there at Leicester.”
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) September 6, 2018
Well aware the Tigers will be fully charged following their midweek change of head coach, Takulua added: “We’re all aware of what has gone on down there but it doesn’t change anything in terms of how we prepare.
“Leicester away is always a tough game. We won there last season and we believe we can do it again, but we’ll have to work for it.
“With their change in head coach I’d think they’ll be looking for nine and ten to control things a little bit more, but they’ll definitely come out and throw everything at us. We’ll just prepare as normal and stick to our system, so it doesn’t really change from our side.
“The atmosphere down there is always big, we love playing in Leicester and these big games are why we play. We won there last season and I don’t see why we can’t do the same thing again.”