Posts Tagged ‘Northampton’

United States international Samu Manoa had another strong game on Saturday, scoring a try as Northampton continued their winning ways, defeating Bath 43-25. You can see Manoa’s try below – the number 8 pops up on the wing and finishes strongly from close range.

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The Heineken Cup brought rugby fans two fantastic games on Saturday, underlining once again what a shame it would be if we were to lose the premier European club competition. The political situation is complex, and there are many financial interests at stake, but the bottom line is that the Heineken Cup is a wonderful showcase for the game we love, and benefits all of the clubs involved. As fans we can only hope that the bigwigs sort out their differences and keep the competition alive in one form or another.

Perpignan v Munster provided sheer heart-pounding drama – it was a brutally physical, tight contest that Munster were leading 13-12 when Italy center Tommaso Benvenuti scored a try for Perpignan in the 77th minute. That put the French side ahead 17-13 with just a few minutes to play. Munster managed to regain possession, but they were going nowhere, with their backs throwing some uncharacteristically sloppy passes. The siren sounded, indicating 80 minutes were up, and Munster knew they could not afford any errors, or the game would be lost. They showed incredible resilience to get back on the front foot, and then 21-year old JJ Hanrahan, who had only just been substituted on, produced a moment of magic – a sidestep that will live long in the memory of Munster fans. Hanrahan went over in the corner, and amazingly Munster had won the game 18-17.

Meanwhile, Leinster v Northampton Saints was the more fascinating in psychological terms. Leinster had humiliated Saints a week ago in Northampton, and everyone was wondering whether the English side would be able to recover in time for their trip to Dublin. Their response was a credit to everyone involved with the club. Northampton dominated the collisions and consistently got over the gainline, as the back row of Calum Clark, Tom Wood, and Samu Manoa (who was named Man of the Match) were outstanding. Leinster clearly missed the influence of Sean O’Brien at the breakdown and in the loose. Yet the Leinster defense held strong, and the Irish side only trailed 7-3 at halftime. The seesaw battle continued in the second half as the two teams traded penalties, and then a drop goal from replacement scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i put Northampton 13-9 ahead with time nearly up. Leinster fought their way back down the field as the siren sounded, going through more than 20 phases, camped out on the Northampton line for many of them. The Saints defense was resolute though, and finally Leinster and Ireland number 8 Jamie Heaslip knocked on. To add insult to injury, Saints wing Jamie Elliott pounced on the loose ball and ran it back for a try, robbing Leinster of the losing bonus point.

Samu Manoa is a name Americans should know. He is the best American rugby player, and is among the best players of any nationality in one of the world’s top domestic leagues, the English Premiership. He plays mainly at lock (or second row), and is also capable of playing blindside flanker or number 8. He is a mountain of a man at 6’6″ and 271 pounds, and is well known for his ferocious tackling, but is also extremely agile and skillful. American media coverage of players like Manoa is going to be crucial for the growth of the game in the United States. We need increased grassroots investment and TV coverage, but also the development of a true rugby culture. Soccer is the blueprint: a kid growing up today in the Bay Area needs to be able to dream of being the next Samu Manoa, the same way a kid growing up in Nacogdoches, Texas can now dream of being the next Clint Dempsey.

Of Tongan heritage, (his grandfather and namesake captained Tonga in the 1960s), Manoa was born in Concord, CA in 1985. He played amateur club rugby for San Francisco Golden Gate and the quality of his play there earned him an opportunity at one of the top English clubs, Northampton. It has been a meteoric rise for Manoa considering he played his first game of professional rugby in September 2011. Northampton gave him a three-year contract extension just six months later, and he was named in ESPN’s Dream Team for the 2011/12 season. Manoa’s second season for the club was even more successful, earning the respect of teammates and fans alike as he was named Players’ Player of the Year as well as Supporters’ Player of the Year. He has continued his excellent form this season, recently being named Player of the Month for October.

Manoa will be a vitally important player for both Northampton and the USA Eagles for years to come. In the first video below, you will see many of his trademark hits – textbook technique, great timing, and thudding power. But also look out for his skill in the air – both at restarts and lineouts – as well as some deft passes in open play. The second video is a brutal hit he made while playing for the Eagles that has proved to be very popular on the great Rugbydump.com