NEW Zealand haven’t ruled out using a treatment deemed illegal by the UK Anti-Doping Authority to save halfback Thomas Leuluai’s World Cup campaign.
The Kiwis romped to a 56-10 win over Papua New Guinea before a rapturous Headingley crowd on Friday, with second rower Sonny Bill Williams posting a hat-trick but fullback Josh Hoffman (shoulder) and winger Manu Vatuvei (calf) picking up injuries.
However, it was Leuluai who was the most disconsolate figure afterwards. He suffered a groin injury during his first training session in the UK and his debut appearance in the tournament, as a halftime replacement, lasted just five minutes.
Before the game, which saw the World Cup holders top their pool, it was revealed the Kiwis wanted to give Leuluai prednisone. After being turned down by the UK Doping Authority, they had turned to Drug Free Sport NZ to circumvent the ruling.
“We’ll have a sit down with the medical staff and just assess everything and see where we’re at with that,” coach Stephen Kearney told Fairfax Media.
“The stakes are pretty high now. If Tommy had a chance, we needed to see tonight whether he’d be OK and it didn’t work out so well.
“He was the one who approached us and spoke about the possibility of playing tonight. He thought it would be best if he did that to get a bit of confidence.”
Leuluai, however, seemed resigned to missing the rest of the tournament and Kearney is concerned that carrying a potential passenger in a sudden death game could harm the entire campaign.
Asked if he had played his last game for the year, Leuluai, 28, said: “I think so … it went straight away.
“There was obviously a lot of pain. I knew that was going to be there but there was no power. I couldn’t run.
“It’s important I don’t let my disappointment affect the squad. They’re playing good football and I am very mindful I have to stay upbeat, I don’t want it to rub off on the guys.”
For the second consecutive week, the Kiwis faced badly beaten opposition which the crowd, nonetheless, took to its heart.
Last Friday it was France given a standing ovation at 42-0 down in Avignon. This week it was the Kumuls encouraged by singing and chanting after a game they lost by 46 points.
On both occasions, the Kiwis visited their opponents’ dressingrooms at fulltime.
The Kiwi managed better than a point a minute for most of the first half, with Williams’ hat-trick coming despite dancing dangerously with the dead-ball line in the 26th minute.
He his claim 70th minute touchdown not been ignored by video referee Richard Silverwood, Williams would have become only the fifth player to score four in a World Cup match.
But the biggest cheers were reserved for PNG halfback Dion Aiye (42nd minute) and interchange player Wellington Albert with two to go. The Kiwis outcored their opponents just 16-10 in the second half.
New Zealand prop Ben Matulino was booked for a cannonball tackle. Kearney said he did not believe the injuries to Hoffman and Vatuvei were serious.
NEW ZEALAND 56 (Sonny Bill Williams 3, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2, Dean Whare 2, Bryson Goodwin, Elijah Taylor tries; Shaun Johnson 8 goals) bt PAPUA NEW GUINEA 10 (Dion Aye, Wellington Albert tries; Francis Paniu goal) at Headingley. Crowd: 18,180. Referee: Ashley Klein (Australia).
Filed for: SUN-HERALD