When Pago Haini used his post-game TV interview last Sunday to say hi to his mum, the extrovert LA Giltinis flanker wasn’t just being a bit cheeky.
He really does miss his mum because he hasn’t seen her for four years. That’s right, four years.
“Love you mum, miss you, see you soon”…that sign-off to end coverage on The Rugby Network really did mean the world after the 52-5 blitz of the Houston SaberCats.
“Surgeries, rehabs, COVID cancelling plans…for various reasons I haven’t seen my mum since 2017,” Haini said.
“We normally talk three or four times a week on Facebook Messenger and I’m really hoping we can see each other this year.”
His parents were church ministers in the Pacific islands when he was growing up and mum Siniva lives in Samoa.
Haini relishes being involved with the 9-2 Giltinis and his post-match locker room interviews for the club on social media show off his big personality.
He switches to business quickly enough because he knows the standard needed to beat the San Diego Legion on their turf at Torero Stadium on Sunday from 3pm (PT).
“In both games we dropped on the road to New York and Atlanta, those teams were more physical so we came out swinging against Houston,” Haini said.
“We have to again against San Diego. I’ve played in front of their fans before and they’ve got some really big bodies for this ‘California Derby’.”
CALIFORNIA DERBY HOTS UP
Giltinis coach Darren Coleman is certain the “California Derby” is going to get bigger and bigger in Major League Rugby.
“Sunday’s game is also the first time our fans have the chance to travel to support us on the road so it would be great to have some voices behind us,” Coleman said.
The Legion’s first game back at Torero Stadium for more than a year almost certainly guarantees a noisy full house.
“It’s getting to crunch time with just five games until the play-offs so we have to be hard on ourselves in getting areas of our play right,” Coleman said.
“We know San Diego will be tough and they’ve picked up a well-credentialled recruit in former Wallaby prop Paddy Ryan since we last played.
“They’ll also be desperate because only a win will keep them alive (at 5-7).”
(vs Houston SaberCats)
Ball carries: Angus Cottrell 14, Dave Dennis 9, JP Smith 8, Luke Burton 8
Running Metres: Glenn Bryce 80, Angus Cottrell 68, DTH van der Merwe 62, Dave Dennis 44
Tackles: Dave Dennis 11, Corey Thomas 10, Nathan Den Hoedt 9
Tackle Busts: Corey Thomas 4, Luke Burton 3
Line Breaks: DTH van der Merwe 2
Ruck/Maul arrivals: Charlie Abel 19, Corey Thomas 18, Angus Cottrell 17, Adam Ashe 17, Pago Haini 16
Goalkicking: Matt Giiteau 71 per cent (5-from-7)
Try-scoring (season): Angus Cottrell 10 (below), DTH van der Merwe 10
Courtesy: Stats Perform
DID YOU KNOW
The Giltinis’ Academy is advancing the next wave of MLR players. Lucas Lacamp and Adam Channel were standouts in last Sunday’s 62-24 win over the Dallas Reds.
Corey Thomas – Lock (collarbone)
Langilangi Haupeakui – Backrower (knee)
Ryan James – Winger (hamstring)
Mahe Vailanu – Hooker (thumb)
Lindsey Stevens – Hooker (knee – season-ending)
Watson Filikitonga – Centre (foot)
Jonetani Vasurakuta – Winger-centre (hamstring)
Marco Fepulea’i – Prop (knee-foot)
Jeff Peleseuma – Five-eighth (foot)
The Giltinis play San Diego Legion in San Diego on Sunday from 3pm (PT). The match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal in Los Angeles and can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.