Maile 'Iongi's try scoring career hits new milestone in South Canterbury rugby
Stu Piddington, Jul 07 2020
A try-scoring double has lifted Harlequins winger Maile ‘Iongi into an exclusive club in South Canterbury’s senior rugby competition.
'Iongi’s twin strikes in a 58-7 win over Geraldine on Saturday have made him just the third player in the competition's history to score 100 tries.
The 32-year-old now sits second on the all-time list to Barry Matthews who crossed 118 times for the Waimate Wallabies after leap frogging Temuka flyer Terry Clark, who is in third spot with 100.
The Tongan born 'Iongi arrived in South Canterbury as a Timaru Boys' High School First XV recruit for 2006 and 2007.
He joined Harlequins in 2008 and had an immediate impact with eight tries for the Hamersley Cup champions that year, while his best annual tally was the following year with 13.
Iongi, now in this 12th senior season (he missed 2018), has scored 101 tries in 160 games, an impressive strike rate by any measure.
He played in the midfield early in his career before settling on his favourite spot on the left wing.
"I can't pass on the right.”
His former coach Gareth Burgess said 'Iongi had an amazing ability to sniff out tries.
"Maile just pops up in the right places. He has also been very consistent over the years with 10 or more on five occasions.
His best effort was five against Temuka a few years back while he has several hat tricks to his name including against Celtic last season in 150th game for his beloved Harlies.
"I am grateful to still wear the jersey.”
'Iongi infectious smile comes out when asked about his nickname 'chicken'.
The 32-year-old certainly doesn't have chicken legs and while he loves KFC that isn't the reason either.
"It's a joke about the small village I come from in Tonga but I can't say more than that.”
‘Iongi, who has been enjoying mentoring the young Tongans in the club’s 2020 team, intended retiring this season but is reconsidering after finding out how close he was to Matthews’ record.
"I heard Barry (Matthews) was a pretty good player. He helped me when I was in the rep team so it would pretty cool to take that record off him.”
Matthews took 14 seasons to score his 118 tries. Unfortunately for 'Iongi he also had a year with Old Boys, and he isn't sure how many tries he got that year.
"I know I scored twice against Waimate.”
That means 'Iongi might have to hang around a couple more seasons, which will please the Harlequins faithful.
He also has a decent strike for South Canterbury scoring 12 times in his 39 games, between 2007 and 2015.
South Canterbury’s other club try scoring records are well spread.
Seti Kiole holds the individual season record with 35 tries for Mackenzie in 2003, at an average of just under three a game.
Kiole, however, does not hold the record for the most tries in a game. The best he could muster was six against Maheno in 2003, when there was a joint senior competition with North Otago. Harlequins fullback Isaac Russell also got six against Excelsior during the same season.
The record belongs to Temuka fullback Alistair Stevenson who dotted down seven times against Mackenzie on April 16, 1988.
Team-mate Clark was first to six tries in the same game but only held the record for 10 minutes before Stevenson joined him and then went one better. Clark then retired on 99 in 2000 but made a comeback at 45 years of age and cracked the century.