Topic: Rugby

Steelers aim to bring Lomu trophy "home"

By James Perry

This weekend the Counties-Manukau Steelers face the Wellington Lions in the Mitre 10 Cup.  On the line will be the Jonah Lomu Memorial Trophy, honouring the legendary winger who played for both sides.

After a rough start to the season where they lost three consecutive matches, the Steelers have got their season back on track with back to back victories. 

This week they face premiership newcomers, Wellington, at home. 

Matiaha Martin, who has stood in as captain for the two victories for the injured Sam Henwood, says both teams like to spread the ball wide so it is important that their forward pack front up this weekend.

This will be the second time the Jonah Lomu Memorial Trophy has been on the line.  Wellington are the current holders, winning the 2016 game 28-27 thanks to a last minute 48 metre Jackson Garden-Bachop penalty. 

The Steelers, however, are determined to bring the trophy "home" this time around.  Martin says, "Jonah Lomu was from Counties, that is our trophy." 

Hooker Joe Royal says the team's pre-training talk centered around Lomu and his contribution to Counties-Manukau rugby.

"Everyone based their kōrero about how big Jonah was and how important it is for him to come home.  He's been away down in Wellys for a while, so it's time to bring him home."

Jim Coe is a former Counties great, he played 182 times for the union. He knows as well as anyone the power Lomu had in the red, white and black jersey.

"The best memory I've got is against Wellington at Athletic Park where he actually ran through Tana Umaga and four others as he went on to score a try in the corner." 

It is a try that Royal says the current team has been watching repeatedly over the course of the week and are hoping to see someone replicate it this Saturday. 

"Everyone keeps heckling Toni Pulu, Tavita Nabura to see if they replicate that same run, and same try."

The Steelers will wear a special commemorative jersey for this weekend, which will be auctioned off afterwards with funds raised going to Franklin Hospice and Counties Manukau Junior Rugby.

Kick off is 2.05pm, with the Counties Manukau Heat playing the earlier game at 11.35am against neighbours Auckland Storm in the Farah Palmer Cup.

Tickets to the game at Pukekohe are $11 this week, another tribute to the legendary Lomu.