Why Ian Watson might have a point in the Tui Lolohea vs Sam Tomkins debate

Yesterday was a very different day for both Sam Tomkins and Tui Lolohea.

As Tomkins was forced to go off injured in his side’s Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat to St Helens, Lolohea was the hero for Huddersfield as they booked their place in the final four of the competition.

Not only did he score a superb game clinching try, he also came up with a vital try saving tackle on Josh Griffin who seemed destined to score at 16-12.

This prompted his coach Ian Watson to again heap praise on his fullback: “He’s one of the, if not the, best fullback in the competition at this moment in time. He was a fullback at the New Zealand Warriors and it was Sam Tomkins who went over and kind of took his place. Tui was a young man with potential at that time. His attack was something that they’d not had in a while but they decided they wanted someone a little more experienced and brought in Sam which kind of stopped Tui playing.

“I think Tui has grown in stature coming over here. He’s played in major finals at six and you see now what he’s doing at one. He’s an outstanding talent.”

His comments prompted the question, ‘does he think Lolohea is better than the reigning Man of Steel Sam Tomkins?’ To which he said: “I’m saying he is, but Steve McNamara and Shaun Wane will probably tell you he’s not. I’ve had Tui for a few years and he’s a great player.”

Many may scoff at the suggestion that Lolohea is as good or even better than Tomkins, but the Huddersfield boss may have a point when you look at the stats.

Below are a few key statistics comparing Lolohea and Tomkins’ seasons in Super League and they make for interesting reading:

Tries:
Sam Tomkins: 0
Tui Lolohea: 1

Try Assist:
Sam Tomkins: 3
Tui Lolohea: 10

Combined Tries and Assists:
Sam Tomkins: 3
Tui Lolohea: 11

Average Gain:
Sam Tomkins: 5.16 metres
Tui Lolohea: 6.76 metres

Clean Breaks:
Sam Tomkins: 0
Tui Lolohea: 1

Metres:
Sam Tomkins: 315
Tui Lolohea: 737

From this you can see that Lolohea beats Tomkins by every measure in terms of stats. Crucially, his involvement in tries dwarfs his Catalans counterpart with Lolohea scoring or assisting 11 compared to Tomkins’ three assists.

Equally, Lolohea tends to make more metres with the ball than Tomkins with 737 to his name compared to Tomkins’ record of 315.

Moreover, it was Lolohea’s team who beat Catalans in the league last week to move level on points with the Dragons – last year’s table toppers – showing that in game Lolohea and his team can match that of Tomkins and his Dragons, something they simply could not do in 2021.

Now, stats aren’t everything and it would be foolish to dismiss the quality of Tomkins based on stats alone. The reigning Man of Steel is central to his side’s attack and is a superb leader on the field for the Dragons. There is no metric for such things but they are important to remember when considering the quality of a player like Tomkins.

Nonetheless, there can be no disputing that Lolohea is relishing the fullback role and should now be considered in the same bracket as Tomkins and co.

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