Takulua’s hot boot ready to torment Tigers
The Tonga captain leads the league’s accuracy chart with a strike rate of 94.4%, Takulua hitting his last 15 in a row including a penalty from 55 metres out during last weekend’s trip to champions Saracens.
Those kicks as well as his contribution in general play have helped the Falcons to win three of their last four matches, Takulua stating: “My philosophy is just to take it with two hands, treat it as an opportunity and know that I have the trust of my team-mates and our coaches.
“It’s an honour, really, to have that responsibility, and I honestly relish it. Once you hit the first couple it sends the message to the opposition that you’re going to punish them on the scoreboard if they continue to commit penalties, and it can end up helping you in other ways if they maybe have that in their minds when they’re defending.”
A relative latecomer to goal-kicking during games, Takulua’s ability from the tee rose to prominence three years ago when he kicked a last-minute winner from the half-way line for Tonga to secure an historic away victory over Italy.
“I’ve played different positions in the back-line during my upbringing and I always kept chipping away with my goal-kicking practice, even though I wasn’t the designated kicker most of the time,” he said, having also kicked the winning conversion away to Leicester last season as Newcastle ended their 20-year win-less streak at Welford Road with the very last play.
“It was more just something I mucked around with after training, but I always did the practice and always had it in my head that I wanted to be the guy kicking at goal. We’re lucky to have a number of great goal-kickers here so it’s fine on the occasions when other players get that role, but I’m always keen and always ready.”
Determined to give the Tigers full respect on Friday despite the East Midlands outfit enduring a difficult time, Takulua said: “Without knowing all of the details around what’s gone on down there it’s hard to say why they’ve been struggling this season, but they’ve certainly got the players and we’re not taking them lightly.
“Obviously we’ll pay them full respect and do our opposition analysis as usual, but for me it’s more about what we do in terms of our own game.
“If we play the Falcons way and do what we do in training I’ve got total belief that the result will go our way. Leicester will know they’re in for a battle, they’ll be bringing their number-one team and they’ll be going for it, but I genuinely feel it’s in our own hands.”
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