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Emotional response to Manu's run to the line

There were not many people, at best guest I’d say between 15 and 30, all of them dressed in black, who did not enjoy seeing Manu Tuilagi’s solo score against the Falcons last Saturday.

Manu’s injury issues have been well catalogued over recent seasons and there have been a few false dawns along the way – the knee injury suffered against Sarries a couple of seasons ago was a consequence of a defence recognising his threat and sending three men in to make the tackle - but the run-in against Newcastle was a great indication of where he is now.

With half-backs Youngs and Ford firing, and Eastmond showing his ball skills in midfield, Manu fed off attacking ball and left two would-be tacklers in midfield chewing turf in his wake. He bounced them both off and then, head up, saw space to attack.

That space ran all the way to the tryline and there was nothing the Falcons defence could do about it. Niki Goneva provided cover from the wing but got no closer than a flailing arm just metres from the tryline.

The crowd at that end of the stadium saw the grin grow wider and everyone on the sidelines, barring the Falcons players and staff, willed him towards the line. The score brought the loudest response of the day from the 20,000 crowd and the celebrations, with Telusa hitting him like he was an opposition player on the floor and the rest of his team-mates piling in, showed the strength of support for a player who is hopefully coming out of the other side of his fitness problems.

Manu’s strength on the pitch is obvious in all he does, but the pace as he ran away from the Falcons cover on Saturday perhaps caught a few by surprise, including those in the Falcons defence. It was like turning back the clock to England versus New Zealand and the Tigers' Premiership Final win over Saints in 2013, to name just two memories of Manu's breakthrough years. 

“At his best, he’s one of the best in the world,” said Geordan Murphy afterwards.

It is one try, one spotlight moment, and Manu will keep his feet on the ground better than most, but the sheer joy of the moment showed just how high emotions have been running around one of the game’s box office players.