Five agree to stay at All Blacks
NEW Cornish All Blacks head coach Cliff Rainford has signed up five members of last term's squad for next season, with plenty more set to follow.
Full-back and prolific goalkicker Kieron Lewitt, fly-half/centre Jake Murphy, lock Jamie Tripcony and hooker Jamie Salter all agreed terms with the National Two South club at the end of last week, and they were joined over the weekend by centre Lewis Paterson.
The 22-year-old former Scotland Under-19 international returned to Polson Bridge last summer after a spell playing away in Ireland, but after a very successful season, in which he scored 10 tries in 29 league appearances, he has now committed himself once again to the east Cornwall club.
Salter and Tripcony were mainstays of the All Blacks' pack last season, with Salter playing in every league game and bagging eight tries – the sort of form that saw him placed on standby for the England Counties' end-of-season tour to Africa.
He spent the last few weeks of the campaign playing at blindside flanker, after the All Blacks' back row options became limited by a suspension for Josh Lord, and he did an excellent job in that position.
Big second-row forward Tripcony rejoined the All Blacks from Championship side Plymouth Albion last summer and featured in 25 games.
Murphy was another virtual ever-present in the starting line-up, and his game came on leaps and bounds during the campaign as a result of regular first-team exposure.
But perhaps the most crucial re-signing for the All Blacks' hopes of success next term is that of Lewitt.
He finished as the division's top goalkicker in 2011-12 with 290 points, made up of 55 conversions and 60 penalties, and also weighed in with four tries to take him past the 300-point mark.
Rainford is hoping to confirm some more new signings, to add to the arrival of scrum-half Nielson Webber from Barnstaple, with hooker Rupert Freestone a potential target for his former club after his release by Plymouth Albion.
Meanwhile, two former All Blacks players have joined new clubs.
Toby Freeman and Tom Parker won a league and cup double with Spanish side Ordizia last season, but back-five forward Freeman has now signed for Championship side Rotherham Titans, while lock Parker has put pen to paper for Brittany-based French Federale One outfit Vannes.