Sydney Roosters have started the 2019 season in similar fashion to how they finished their Premiership run last season and Otara Scorpions junior Sio Siua Taukeiaho has been a key figure up the guts for the Chooks this year. As is the case with quality clubs, the Roosters have also showcased their development sytem with Sitili Tupouniua (Marist Saints) the latest to settle into NRL footy and add value off the bench.
Taukeiaho is on the cusp of over-taking the South Auckland Rhino Jason Taumalolo in terms of the most lethal middle forward runners in the NRL, with solid improvement on his numbers from last season. As part of a Roosters #KiwiNRL middle also featuring Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Isaac Liu, Taukeiaho offers a slight point of difference via his mobility and power.
Averaging 53 minutes this season, Taukeiaho is 5th in run metres for the NRL. Only three forwards are in the top-10 for run metres, with David Klemmer (3rd) and Martin Taupau (10th) joining Taukeiaho. What's most interesting about Taukeiaho though is that he is 26th in number of runs, which puts Taukeiaho in rare air as he is running for similar metres off far less runs than Klemmer (1st in runs) and Taupau (12th in runs).
This flows into Taukeiaho averaging 11.35m/run, which is an exceptional number. Compare that to Klemmer, who averages 9.59m/run and Taukeiaho is far more efficient in his work, plus if we chuck Taukeiaho's numbers against Klemmer, Taupau and Sam Burgess who are widely known as being among the best forwards in the game, Taukeiaho is the only bloke averaging over 11m/run.
Jason Taumalolo is yet to genuinely settle into his work this season as he's battled injury, although he's averaging an impressive 10.93m/run. How Taukeiaho and Taumalolo's efficiency compares later on in the season will be intriguing as they will both need to overcome greater defensive attention over the season, with teams zoning in on limiting their influence.
Taukeiaho is also 4th in post contact meteres, behind Klemmer (1st) and Jai Arrow (2nd) as the best forwards. Again, it's Taukeiaho's efficiency though that is notable as he averages 3.63 post contact metres per run, while Klemmer averages 3.48 and Aarrow averages 3.49. When talking about stats, mainstream media serves up rather meaningless stats as they focus on run metres, number of runs and whole numbers from games. Taukeiaho is impressive in that regard, but it's what Taukeiaho does every time he runs the footy and while there may be more efficient forwards further down the rankings, Taukeiaho averages the most metres and post contact metres of the best forwards in the NRL.
What's scary is Taukeiaho's improvement from last season. Taukeiaho averaged 10.75m/run and was ranked 18th in run metres, 43rd in runs last season which jumps up to 11.35m/run, ranked 5th in metres and 26th in runs. That's getting close to adding a metre to each run and for someone who already lives above the 10m/run marker, improvement like that is a wee bit crazy. Also notable is Taukeiaho's defensive improvement. Last season, Taukeiaho missed 1 tackle for every 17 tackles he made and this season he his missing a tackle for every 25 tackles he's made.
This comes after Taukeiaho was beastly in the win over Canberra Raiders, playing 67mins with 23runs/263m. That's 11.43m/run, along with a couple offloads, a try and the most passes of any Roosters forward other than hooker Victor Radley; averaging more than 11m/run and being able to shift the footy is lovely.
In beating the Raiders, the Roosters also had great impact from Tupouniua off the bench. Tupouniua had a line break to set up a try, an offlod along with 6runs/74m for 12.33m/run in 42mins, which was all above his averages for the season in four games. Tupouniua is averaging 31.5mins, 5runs/57m for 11.4m/run this season and this comes after Tupouniua made a similar shift to Taukeiaho in moving from edge to middle.
Tupouniua is the latest #KiwiNRL Rooster to come off their production line and the Chooks also have Asu Kepaoa waiting for his opportunity in reserve grade. Kepaoa was named in the Roosters World Club Challenge squad early this year and went to England with the squad, but didn't play, now he's toiling away for North Sydney Bears in Canterbury Cup.
Kepaoa played fullback for the Roosters Jersey Flegg team last weekend as there was no Canterbury Cup footy, which reminds us that he's Under 20s. Kepaoa is 1st in Canterbury Cup run metres and 3rd in runs, averaging 10.47 mainly as a winger for the Bears and is also 3rd in post contact metres.
Named in the Aotearoa Residents Under 18 squad in 2017 from Counties Manukau, Kepaoa came through Sacred Heart College before appearing to shift to the Roosters to play junior footy earlier last year. Now, despite being still Flegg eligible, Kepaoa could be the next outside back in line and would add to an already flourishing #KiwiNRL Roosters crew.
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