Tonga are toast of oyster festival
Story and Photo: www.rugbyworldcup.com
RUSSELL, Sept 18. - It might have taken a few dozen oysters, but Tonga restored their spirits with a community visit to one of New Zealand's oldest and smallest towns, Russell, on Saturday.
The town was one of the first to be settled in New Zealand and has a population of fewer than 1,000, but it was buzzing with the Russell Oyster Festival back from a 10-year hiatus.
It picked up further when the entire Tongan team sailed in on the ferry from Paihia and were greeted with a pier lined with waving fans.
More than 30 children clad in red performed the All Blacks haka, ka mate, followed by the ara ngapuhi haka and then a welcome song, accompanied by Kaiako tutor Jacci Rewha-Elendon on guitar.
Almost all of the 1,000 dozen oysters from six different oyster farmers were sold before the Tongans arrived, but those that were left did not last long.
Fitness trainer Matt Blair admitted it was a departure from the daily nutrition plan, as the team wolfed down oysters au naturel, kilpatrick, battered, in burgers and even oyster quiche.
"But it's a Saturday, game is on Wednesday (against Japan), plus they are usually pretty good at self-regulating," he said.
A few days after their second RWC 2011 defeat, against Canada on Wednesday, the Tongans showed they where back in good spirits when prop Halani Aulika and hooker Ephraim Taukafa jumped on stage to take part in 'the sexiest way to eat an oyster' competition.
The two forwards fed each other oysters before Aulika brought the house down by taking off his shirt, flexing his biceps and then lying on the stage as Fly Gordon, from Paihia, sucked the oyster off his stomach.
Aulika said he could not resist the chance to eat as many oysters as possible.
"I've had Bluff oysters from down near Invercargill - they say they are the best in the world," Aulika said. "But these are just as good."
However, not everyone chowed down.
"I don't really like oysters," captain Finau Maka said. "I had some whitebait, that was pretty good, but I reckon the team is eating my share anyway."