ROOKIE WATCH: Garden-Bachop shines on the wing

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Here are our three standout rookies from round one:


3 points: Connor Garden-Bachop (Highlanders)

After missing the entire 2020 season through injury, Connor Garden-Bachop looked like he was making up for lost time on debut for the Highlanders. Playing on the right wing, Garden-Bachop looked dangerous every time he touched the ball and showed his class with a sharply taken try on the stroke of halftime. The 21-year-old was also impressive on defence, making a number of important tackles on the potent Crusaders backs.


2 points: James Lay (Blues)

Samoan international and former Bristol Bears front rower James Lay showed the benefit of his experience during an impressive 44-minute shift against the Hurricanes. Not many rookies boast the international experience that the 27-year-old Lay does, and it was truly evident during a rock-solid first half performance. It’s clear to see that Lay nails the key components of his role and coach Leon MacDonald will be assured that he has suitable cover should one of his frontline props falls over during the campaign.


1 point: Chay Fihaki (Crusaders)

Incredibly impressive for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup last year, Chay Fihaki enjoyed a solid debut for the Crusaders at fullback in Dunedin on Friday night. A player with genuine x-factor ability, Fihaki didn’t get many opportunities to showcase his game-breaking talent under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium but will be better for the experience.


NOTE: The qualification for rookies is players that are either playing in their first season of Super Rugby or who are playing their first season as a contracted player and have played less than five games prior to 2019.



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