On Tuesday 27th December 2011 a record was broken in South West London. The largest ever crowd turned out for a top of the table league clash at the home of English rugby. A tense and well contested match saw PUMA stars and teammates Tomas Vallejos and Nick Easter lose their unbeaten league record to their close rivals from Watford. It was an extraordinary game and a bittersweet occasion for the two men to compete in. The thrill of running out in front of 82,000 rugby fanatics was quickly dulled by the loss of a winning streak that stretched back ten league games into early-September.
The weeks prior to that game had also seen them lose at home in the European Cup. Only to then find the courage and belief to unexpectedly win on French soil a week later. These types of games help forge a decent side into a great one. Life at a rugby club is great during a winning streak. Come the hard times though, it’s the players with true grit that carry you through. It’s therefore unsurprising to see that both Tomas Vallejos and Nick Easter started nearly all of their side's games throughout November and December. When the going gets tough you need guys with the experience, desire and strength to drive a team against the tide. Both Vallejos and Easter are that type of player. Invaluable, in other words.
Tomas Vallejos Cinalli is a 25 year old, powerful lock from the rugby city of Rosario in Northern Argentina. Having come via three seasons in Italian club rugby, he arrived in South West London in January 2010. Impressive form in the English top tier saw him included in the RWC squad, leading to his International debut, off the bench against the Georgians. Big, combative, mobile and excellent in the line out, he is a player growing in stature for both club and country. Nick Easter meanwhile, has been cut from his national squad and unfairly blamed for a lacklustre World Cup. Falling foul of the new broom sweeping through, his dignified and quietly inspirational captaincy seems to have been forgotten.
However, his county's loss is his club's gain. At 33 and still one of the best number eights in the business he has some critics to prove wrong. There is no better platform for him to do so than at a club on the verge of greatness. Both players will go on to form an integral part of their side's pursuit of excellence and ultimately, silverware.