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New star Piutau can't wait to rip into Pro12 campaign

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 29/08/2016

Running man: Charles Piutau strides forward
Running man: Charles Piutau strides forward
Flying start: Piutau was the star turn of Friday’s friendly win

Shortly after the final whistle sounded in Ulster's win over Northampton on Friday night, Charles Piutau, flanked by his new director of rugby Les Kiss, found himself in the Kingspan Stadium's media suite for the first time.

Whether either man was keen to admit it, the All Black superstar had been the story of game. Fans had waited since April of 2015 to see the big money acquisition's first game in Belfast and the 24-year-old didn't disappoint in a try-scoring showing that offered a tantalising glimpse of his varied talents.

Ulster's first try, scored by Louis Ludik, came after Piutau displayed his aerial prowess to claim the ball over Ken Pisi and pass out of the tackle to Rob Lyttle.

Having bagged the second himself, a try in the corner that never looked likely to be prevented by the covering Ben Foden, his role in Ulster's fourth and final touchdown was the most impressive of the lot.

In a planned strike move, the full-back burst on to a ball popped up by John Andrew and showed blistering pace and power to scythe through the Saints before offloading to Jacob Stockdale.

While Ulster's scoring was finished for the evening, Piutau wasn't done impressing, on two occasions preventing his man from beating him on the outside when representing the last line of defence.

Afterwards, he was keen to downplay his own key contributions, stressing that the season ahead for the province would be very much a team effort.

"I guess in the team we believe we are all leaders and that we can play a part," he said. "Yes I do see myself as leading in some aspects, but I guess I just want to help out where I can.

"Like with the young guys who stepped in, they did really well and wherever I can, whatever I can, share and help improve them I will. I know they help me as well.

"The team is full of leaders, we have co-captains and a lot of international players and they play a big part as well. I just cannot wait for it to kick off.

"There is the business end of it now and we have another game at home. The supporters will turn out and as a team we cannot wait to rip into it."

Announced as man of the match over the tannoy moments before the end of the game, the award brought a huge cheer from the crowd with Piutau admitting he loved his first experience of the Kingspan crowds.

"I heard so much about it and the fans really did deliver on that side. I guess being out there on the field the boys do feel the support they are getting and it really does help us play the game.

"I heard some of the songs they were singing and it got me dancing a little bit out there and in the groove. That is just the presence they have and I am so grateful to have it. For me I was trying to give back to them and thank them."

The serious business of the Pro12 begins on Friday with the visit of Dragons when those same fans will be looking for a repeat performance from Piutau when it really matters.

If one swallow doesn't make a summer, the man himself will know a friendly certainly doesn't make a season. This, however, was quite the introduction.

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