Liam Messam’s Chiefs Return a No-Brainer

As the most-capped Chiefs player of all time, there is no doubt at all that Liam Messam should return to the club and see out the 2016 campaign.

Popular with the entire organisation, Messam has amassed 144 caps for the Chiefs and was co-captain in seasons past. A former All Black and Rugby World Cup winner, Messam also dabbled in boxing prior to his Sevens Rugby bid. Once his Sevens dream was over, Messam’s Japanese club Toshiba granted him permission to pursue a return to the Chiefs.

Messam’s return is certain, not only because of the large number of injuries that have hit the Chiefs front row recently either. Continue reading Liam Messam’s Chiefs Return a No-Brainer

Liam Messam Signs Multiple-Year Deal With Japanese Club Toshiba

All Blacks and former Chiefs superstar Liam Messam will play his rugby in Japan after signing with Toshiba Brave Lupus, the same club as two of his former teammates.

Messam will join Richard Kahui and Tanerau Latimer, both former Chiefs players, and is rumoured to be a multiple-year contract with Toshiba Brave Lupus, a club competing in Japan’s Top League competition.

This leaves Messam’s future in NZ Rugby uncertain, but Messam will still be a part of the All Black Sevens squad that will contest the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Messam was left out of the 2016 Chiefs squad due to his involvement with the Sevens programme.

Waikato hold off Manawatu fightback

Waikato has notched a crucial early-season win over Manawatu 28-21 in Palmerston North this afternoon.

Manwatu fightback against Waikato. Credit: Perform Group

The win puts the Mooloos back on track after a loss in week one.

Performing much more comprehensively in all areas. Waikato utilized their backline and benefit from two great impact performances by returning All Blacks Liam Messam and Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

Discipline was again a concern for the Mooloos in the victory.

Manawatu showed that they are never out of a match, coming back to nearly clinch a late victory.

Shaun Stevenson wasted no time picking up from where he left off in the last game, stepping past four Manawatu defenders to score in the corner with just over a minute on the clock.

McKenzie missed the conversion, but Waikato was out to an early lead.

Manawatu was penalised for not rolling away, then McKenzie put the Mooloos eight points in front with a kick from close to halfway.

Manawatu looked shaky early on, falling off a couple of tackles but the Mooloos kept up the early pressure, passing the ball around, and bringing the backline into the game.

McKenzie took Waikato out to an 11-point lead, slotting his second penalty.

Laim Messam showed how important his experience can be for the young Mooloos side, forcing a turnover after a brilliant counter-ruck.

Manawatu fullback Hamiora Thomas was sent to the sin bin for deliberately knocking down the ball when Waikato had a clean break and a free player out wide.

It didn’t take Waikato long to score with an extra man on the park.

Going down in the tackle, Loni Uhila reached over the try line and planted the ball down on the turf, handing Waikato their second try. After McKenzie converted, Waikato had a big lead of 18-0 with a quarter of the match gone.

Pushed for the first time on defense, Waikato was lucky to not be caught on the left after rushing up quickly.

A prolonged period of attack saw Manawatu begin to dominate possession and territory after Jordan Payne was sent to the sin bin for illegally stripping the ball.Waikato were backed up on their try line but their defense was strong and held out the attack.

At halftime, Waikato led 18-0 at Arena Manawatu.

Waikato were immediately on the attack after the break, but when Messam knocked on, Manawatu counter attacked and a brilliantly weighted kick on the break by Jason Emery setup Manawatu’s first try.

Otere Black converted and the score was 18-7.

Just after getting back to a full playing XV, Waikato were a man down again when Tawera Kerr-Barlow was sent to the sin bin for an illegal knockdown.

Kerr-Barlow would have been kicking himself after an impressive showing prior.

Fraser Armstrong powered over the line, breaking down three Waikato defenders to score Manawatu’s second. Black’s conversion saw the Waikato lead cut to just four.

As they did in round one, Manawatu showed that they are capable of coming back from large deficits and had all the momentum.

Damian McKenzie gave Waikato some breathing room, slotting a penalty to make the score 21-14.

Waikato got a little too ambitious in their own half, McKenzie threw his third forward pass of the game to hand possession to Manawatu on the try line, but Manawatu knocked on and the opportunity went begging.

Good kicking from McKenzie and Weber shifted the game back down onto the Manawatu try line.

McKenzie slicked through the last line of Manawatu defense to score and all but put the game beyond the home side. Following the conversion, Waikato was out to a 14-point lead with the last period of the game remaining.

It was McKenzie’s first try in regular season ITM Cup competition.

Manwatu inched closer with a Nathan Tudreu sideline tippy toe, grounding the ball down, and after sending the decision upstairs, the try was awarded.

On the sideline, Black struck the kick perfectly to bring the deficit back to seven.

A certain try was lost for Manawatu when Black’s pass flew over the head of a free receiver, but Waikato were not out of the woods when Declan O’Donnell was tackled near his own try line as the Mooloos struggled to clear.

One last chance with running ball presented itself to Manawatu and the Turbos opted for an attacking scrum ten metres out. Moving forward with the ball, Manawatu came within inches of scoring, but the ball became trapped in the ruck.

The referee blew his whistle, and the game was over.

Waikato narrowly held on to be 28-21 winners in round two ITM Cup action over Manawatu.

Experience could prove critical for Waikato

The Mooloos wont be lacking in motivation to beat Manawatu as two of their seasoned campaigners return for a rare appearance in ITM Cup rugby.

Liam Messam returns to ITM Cup. Credit: Planet Rugby

Manawatu are defending ITM Cup Championship division champs and will again be a big challenge for Waikato.

Liam Messam makes his first appearance in Mooloos colors in four years, and Waikato will be counting on his experience being critical at the breakdown, an area of concern last week.

Having Messam in the run on side will be a great motivator for the youngsters in the forward pack to perform.

If Waikato is to beat Manawatu away from home, wingers Joe Webber and Declan O’Donnell need to be injected into the game. The ball needs to be thrown across the field to put the talented wingers into space with covering support.

Captain Whetu Douglas needs to be more disciplined in the ruck.

The front row packs a little more experience with Loni Uhila starting, and coach Sean Botherway has given a lot of faith to James Tucker who starts after debuting off the bench last week.

Tucker is rated highly but has been marred by injuries throughout the last year.

Last years fixture between the two sides saw Waikato narrowly lose 22-20 after being in a position to win the match late with numbers free on the wing, but the keen Damian McKenzie decided to run the ball himself and ended up being penalized in the ruck.

Waikato should have won that game, and McKenzie will be desperate for a strong showing as the looming return of Stephen Donald lingers.

It has been five years since the Mooloos beat Manawatu away from home, the performance last week has been forgotten fast, but Waikato need to be very wary of Manawatu’s ability to comeback fast from deficits.

Manawatu nearly shocked Counties Manakau last week with a thrilling comeback, losing by just a single point.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow will have much to prove in a rare Mooloos outing as the halfback sits around third or fourth in the race of All Black number nines wanting to go to the World Cup next month.

Today’s match could be Kerr-Barlow’s last chance to impress All Black selectors.

Boxing: A bigger drawcard for athletes than ever before

First there was SBW, then Quade Cooper, and now the likes of Liam Messam and Jesse Ryder plus so many others are utilising the boxing ring for a common reason.

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Perhaps the most attuned to competing in the sport of boxing outside of his regular day job is Sonny Bill Williams.

The dual international league and union star describes the process of boxing training as mentally refreshing and has said on multiple occasions that it helps his mental state of mind when playing rugby.

Liam Messam isn’t just your average New Zealand sportsman entering the ring on January 31st either.

Chiefs captain, multiple gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games, regular All Black starter, and one of the most feared Sevens players in the world.

Messam now joins a growing list of big name sportsman from New Zealand who decide put on the boxing gloves.

It was announced today that cricketer Jesse Ryder will fight political blogger Cameron Slater in a charity boxing match in the coming weeks, and while Ryder says that fitness isn’t his main reason for the fight, his opponent Slater appears to be using boxing as a good opportunity to lose some weight.

Ryder said that boxing gives him a good reason to get away from cricket.

Ben Tameifuna has also become a regular at the KFC Fight for Life in the last couple of years.

The Real Michael Pulman interviewed and talked Tameifuna many times during the last year and one noticeable aspect with the boxing was the gruelling toll it was taking during the training process.

Tameifuna appeared much less chirpy than normal, however after the fight and the weeks of training, Tameifuna seemed to have a new sense of confidence about his game and was clearly very refreshed.

It wasn’t too long ago that many were unhappy with players like SBW tossing and trading between their main rugby commitments and boxing on the side, but slowly and surely it has become much more accepted by most, and the spectacle of the annual KFC Fight for Life has a big part in that mindset change.

Now boxing isn’t just for the proper boxers, boxing is becoming an avenue for bettering athletes perhaps more mentally than anything else.

Liam Messam to put on ethnic Rugby Sevens tournament

High profile Chiefs loose forward Liam Messam is set to launch an Indigenous Sevens tournament in Cambridge next month.

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The Messam Indigenous Sevens (Mi7’s) will be held at Memorial Park in Cambridge on February 21st.

The single-day tournament focuses largely on ethnicity, with the goal to have several ethnic based teams ranging from not only Maori and Pakeha, but also Fijian, Samoan, Tongan, and even Europe nationalities like the Welsh.

The tournament will take place just a few days after the Chiefs second regular season Super Rugby matchup against the Brumbies in New Plymouth (February 18th) and Messam has already signalled his intention to play the early rounds of the competition unlike a lot of other All Blacks around the country.

Messam also has a boxing match on January 31st in Sydney as part of the SBW/Chauncy Welliver undercard.

Messam has some big time sevens experience, including double gold medals with the New Zealand Sevens side at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and 2010 respectively.

The Mi7’s will feature four divisions: Open Men’s, Open Women’s, U20 Men’s, and U20 Women’s.

Each category is limited to eight teams and $20,000 in prize money is up for grabs which will be split between the four divisions with each winning team receiving $5,000.

Entry to the Mi7’s will cost $380 per side and entry forms can be accessed through the Waikato Rugby Union.

The tournament will also see Messam, now days one of the more high profile All Blacks, return to his native club of Hautapu.