Messam's gut-wrenching decision pays off

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Liam Messam was faced with an unenviable choice on Sunday morning, but a decision to stay in Brisbane and finish the Tens with the Chiefs after the death of good friend and former Chief Sione Lauaki proved inspirational.

Messam's initial instinct when he learned of Lauaki's death, at just 35, was to jump on the next plane home with Blues player Jerome Kaino, but one thought stopped him from abandoning Suncorp Stadium.

"I tried to get on the first plane back with my other mate Jerome Kaino but we know what Wax would've wanted and he'd probably tell me to stop crying," hesaid.

"The boys really wanted me to do it for him and I'll get back there tomorrow." - Liam Messam

Messam's move to stay on with the Chiefs helped them to the Brisbane Tens title, a 12-5 win over the Crusaders, after which both teams came together in a mark of respect for the late Lauaki.

It was a poignant Crusaders captain Jordan Taufua relished, when rivalries dissolved.

"We all picked up the rugby ball because we wanted to be part of a team and make new mates," he said.

"That's what this game is about, creating friendships, and just going out there and playing for your mates.

"Going into that circle just at the end, you could just feel the passion and the love for the game but also for our brother, who just passed away. 

"We leave everything on the field but afterwards we come together for a good cause."

Shaun Stevenson was tournament MVP. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe relief Messam felt after lifting the trophy and paying a public tribute to Lauaki was doubled by the sense it was at least an on-field circuit breaker after numerous scandals embroiled the club since the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season.

When that final hooter sounded, Messam could only muster one desire.

"I just wanted to lie down," he said.

"It's been a big weekend, a lot of running.

"Tens is a lot harder than Sevens, any Sevens tournament I've played in.

"I'm proud of the boys, what a young group of men that came out today and showed what we're about.

"We haven't been in the positive limelight with the media lately but this is a good start of the season for us to get that respect back." - Liam Messam

The fairytale gained momentum perfection as the Chiefs progressed to the final but it was the Crusaders who took the first points, through a rolling maul try for Andrew Makalio.

A potentially serious knee injury for scrumhalf Brad Weber continued a tough start for the Chiefs, before a converted Luke Jacobson try put them at a two-point half-time advantage.

Brad Weber was shattered after injuring his knee. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyTaleni Seu added a second in the 14th minute but a gruesome broken leg for Mitchell Graham was difficult for anyone to see, with the prop’s shin buckling in a ruck.

While outside back Shaun Stevenson was named tournament MVP, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said it was Messam's heroics that helped the Chiefs to a win.

We talked through things early, we offered 'Hunga' (Messam) the chance to go straight home, he decided he wanted to stay and play for 'Wax' and I thought he was just sensational today," he said.
 
"So, I think the way the boys played today and the way they honoured Sione was pretty special. They're a pretty special group of men.

 

"There was a lot of singing, chanting boys are really enjoying the occasion but a lot of real mental toughness and focus around getting the job done for Wax and getting the job done for our supporters and getting the job done for 'Hunga' who decided to stay and fight with  the boys.

 

I don't think we'd have won it without him."

A moment’s silence kicked off their final day at the Tens, as they romped to a 33-5 win over  the Wild Knights and secured their knockout spot.

While the potential success of the competition was widely questioned in the lead-up, decent, if not overwhelming, crowds turned out on each day in unfriendly football-watching conditions.

The Crusaders and the Chiefs shared a moment after the final. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyBy and large, the teams made it through unscathed before finals carnage, beginning with a suspected broken leg for Hurricanes forward Vaea Fifita, before Weber and Graham followed in the decider.

"We've sustained a serious injury to a key player which really takes the gloss off the tournament for us, it's tough,” Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said of the incident.

"All I know is he's got a suspected broken leg and he's off to the hospital to get that accurately diagnosed. That's a massive blow for us.

At the end of the day, if that hadn't happened, we brought a pretty young crew over here and it's given us confidence in some younger players."


Crusaders coach Scott Robertson suggested the late flurry of injuries might just be enough to vindicate New Zealand Rugby's decision to prevent its All Blacks from playing in the competition, due to a 12-week mandated off-season break.

Australia’s Super Rugby teams will be hoping the tournament is no omen for the XVs year, with the Force and the Reds making it through to the quarter-finals but falling in their first knockout.

The Waratahs finished with just one win, a two-point victory over the Rebels, but their young brigade had its moments, while the Rebels started on a high with a win over the Chiefs, but struggled to dominate after that opener.

More telling might be the trials they play this week, with the Reds and Rebels on Tuesday night and the Waratahs taking on the Highlanders on Thursday night at Brookvale Oval.

To find out how the day unfolded in Brisbane

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