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Richie Mo'Unga (Linwood) Hawkins Medal Player of The Week
The stand-out form of Linwood’s Richie Mo’unga in the Christchurch Metro Division One rugby competition could not have come at a better time.
The same week that the Crusaders fans said farewell to their two first five-eighths, Mo’unga again showed his credentials for his club that have put him near the top of the Hawkins Medal competition for the most valuable player.
Each week, independent observers award three, two and one point to the best three players in each game to find the Hawkins Medal winner.
Mo’unga’s position on the table, one point behind University’s Sam Godwin, is remarkable because his Linwood team has struggled to build on their strong start to the season.
The first five, however, has consistently shown his class that last year took him to the ITM Cup and on the verge of the Crusaders squad.
With Daniel Carter and Colin Slade leaving for France, Linwood coach Andrew Gibson says, Mo’unga has the potential to fill one of those slots.
Aside from his terrific skill set, Gibson particularly raves about the leadership ability of his young captain.
“He’s a natural leader. People want to follow him and when he talks, others listen,” says Gibson. “That started at St Andrews, has continued at Linwood and he is picking up more tips as he’s been exposed to great captains like Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.”
In the modern era of oversized rugby players, some have questioned whether Mo’unga can meet the physical demands of Super 15, at a modest 1.79m height and 83kg weight, but the Linwood co-coach dismisses the doubters.
“Richie has beefed up a lot and his defence has been outstanding. He has had a lot of traffic come through his channel this year but he makes all the tackles.”
On the other end of the park Mo’unga is a nightmare for defenders, as he can rely on superb running, passing and kicking skills.
“Every time he goes to the line, you have no idea what he’s going to come up with next,” says Gibson.
“And his touch background gives him that additional agility and makes him a really exciting player to watch.”
Hawkins Medal leaders: Sam Godwin (University) 9, Richie Mo'unga (Linwood) 8, Jason Merrett (Chch), Rowan O'Gorman (Marist Albion), Amanaki Nicole (Sumner), Tulolo Tulolo (New Brighton), Cam Watkins (University), Ross Kennedy (Marist Albion) 6,
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