The versatile forward, who is comfortable in both the second-row and back-row, has had previous experience in England having lined-out for Leicester Tigers over 80 times over a four-year spell and is excited to return to the Premiership.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to return to England and test myself in the Premiership. London Irish is entering an exciting period in its history and I am thrilled to have signed. Next season will be a great challenge for myself and for the club and I cannot wait to run out and play for my first game in the famous green shirt,” he said.
Since his time with the Tigers Mafi has gone on to play for Super Rugby franchise the Western Force and Castres, where he won the Top 14 in 2018.
The Exiles director of rugby Declan Kidney is delighted to have added such an experienced player to his squad.
“Steve is another experienced addition to our squad moving forward. We know how demanding and challenging the Gallagher Premiership is, so it is important that we assemble a squad to meet the demands. Steve has a wealth of experience and the ability to cover several positions in the second and back row. We look forward to welcoming him to the club,” he said.
The 29-cap Tongan will certainly add experience to the club who are preparing for life back in the Premiership following their promotion from the Championship last season.
London Irish have already spent big this summer adding the likes of Waisake Naholo, Paddy Jackson, Noel Reid, Sean O’Brien, Sekope Kepu, and Nick Phipps among others with Mafi now joining the list of in-comings.
Highlights & Report | Saints topple Saracens in opener.
Huge results for Saints.
In a back-and-forth contest that saw the lead switch six times, Saints scored three tries before the break – David Ribbans, Rory Hutchinson and Henry Taylor all crossing the whitewash – with Saracens only able to send Matt Gallagher over in response.
But the boot of Ben Spencer kept the home scoreboard ticking over and though neither side crossed the whitewash in the second forty it was ultimately a James Grayson penalty that secured the win at the death for Saints.
Saracens wasted no time getting their first points of the Premiership season – with Spencer knocking over a penalty just two minutes in – before the scrum-half added a second on the 15 minute mark.
But Saints responded well and charging runs from Taqele Naiyaravoro, Alex Coles and then Paul Hill got Saints into Saracens’ 22; and after a period of pressure on the tryline, the men in Black, Green and Gold came away with the first try of the game – David Ribbans the man over the line in his 50th appearance in Saints’ colours.
Grayson made no mistake with the conversion to put Saints ahead, but the lead was short-lived as another Spencer penalty swung the scoreline back Saracens’ way. And the home side stretched that lead just a minute later as Ben Earl snuck through a gap and fed Matt Gallagher for the score.
An important turnover from Coles in Saracens’ territory got Saints back on the front foot though and with Northampton working their way up the pitch, Hutchinson spun and stretched over the line for Saints’ second of the match.
Grayson’s conversion brought the game back within two and Saints were soon back on the scoresheet again. After scooping up loose ball in their own 22, Grayson hacked the ball downfield and with Collins in chase and Taylor on his shoulder, the wing offloaded to see the scrum-half score Saints’ third against his former side – again Grayson converted and the away side entered the changing room five points in front.
Saints were denied a George Furbank try by the TMO after the break though, and Spencer sent another penalty through the posts to close the gap to two points. Spencer and Grayson exchanged another penalty each before the Saracens kicker added another from the tee to see the home side lead again.
But the scrumhalf’s eighth kick came off the post and when the chance came for Grayson to line up for the sticks in the game’s final minute, the 21-year-old sent the ball sailing through the uprights to see Saints secure their first away win over Saracens in three years.
Report from Saints
Highlights & Report | Paddy Jacksons stars as London Irish Pip Wasps.
Irish surprise Wasps at the Ricoh
Tries from Blair Cowan, Albert Tuisue and a long range effort from Ollie Hassell-Collins, combined with 14 points off the boot of Paddy Jackson, was enough to get the Exiles across the line.
Irish started the contest well and after going behind to a Lima Sopoaga penalty striking back right away. Paddy Jackson fizzed a pass to Ollie Hassell-Collins who broke down the left-hand flank. The winger was tackled five metres short of the line but three phases later, Blair Cowan bundled over the line for the opening score of the game.
Sopoaga and Jackson traded penalties before the hosts struck back with their first try of the afternoon. The Exiles were turned over after gathering the restart and Wasps capitalised with Zach Kibirige squeezing in at the corner. The try gave Wasps an 11-8 lead.
Declan Kidney’s side continued to stay in the fight and, when Jackson kicked his second penalty goal of the afternoon from 45 metres the scores were level at 11-11 at the half hour mark.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining there was still a few twists and turns to take place. London Irish crossed for their second try of the afternoon following a well worked line-out. Paddy Jackson kicked to the corner and the resulting catch and drive saw a rampaging Albert Tuisue thunder back towards the Wasps try line carrying three Wasps defenders over with him.
The Exiles lead lasted three minutes, with Zach Kibirigie crossing for his second of the afternoon to lock the game up again, this time at 16-16.
Irish went into the break with the lead, Jackson converting his third penalty after a great penalty turnover was won by Blair Cowan. 16-19 Irish led at the break.
Hassell-Collins got what his first half performance deserved, three minutes into the second half. The winger sprinted in from 55 metres out, collecting a wide passed from the impressive Cowan to score his side’s third try. Jackson converted from the sideline to give his side a 10-point lead at 16-26.
A Jackson penalty five minutes later was converted as referee JP Doyle penalised Wasps for being offside in the midfield. Irish led 16-29 with just over 30 minutes remaining.
The following exchanges saw Wasps dominate possession in the Irish 22, however it was meet with resolute Irish defence. A stand-out moment saw Tom Parton make an outstanding try saving tackle to prevent Kibirigie his hat-trick in the corner.
The hosts were not to be denied and, after gutsy Irish defence, Dan Robson eventually spotted a gap to dot down and bring Wasps right back into it. Sopoaga’s conversion reduced the deficit to 23-29 in favour of London Irish.
Jacob Umaga, on as a second half replacement, reduced the arrears further with a penalty goal and it was agonisingly close moving towards the end.
Wasps were camped on the Exiles line with time up on the clock and, when the ball was fumbled by the hosts, Jackson touched down over the Exiles try line to secure a three point victory.
Wasps: Penalties: Sopoaga (9, 15) Umaga (73); Tries: Kibirigie (23, 36), Robson (66); Conversions: Sopoaga (67) London Irish: Tries: Cowan (10), Tuisue (33); Hassell-Collins (43); Penalties: Jackson (21, 26, 40, 48); Conversions: Jackson (43)
15. Tom Parton; 14. Ben Loader; 13. Curtis Rona; 12. Terrence Hepetema; 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins; 10. Paddy Jackson; 9. Scott Steele (rep: Ben Meehan, 40); 1. Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (rep: Harry Elrington, 52) 2. Saia Fainga’a (rep: Ross McMillan, 73); 3. Oliver Hoskins (rep: Lovejoy Chawatama, 73); 4. Franco van der Merwe © (rep: George Nott, 28); 5. Ruan Botha; 6. Matt Rogerson; 7. Blair Cowan; 8. Albert Tuisue
Replacements: 16. Ross McMillan; 17. Harry Elrington; 18. Lovejoy Chawatama; 19. George Nott; 20. Conor Gilsenan; 21. Ben Meehan; 22. Stephen Myler; 23. Matt Williams
15. Marcus Watson; 14. Zach Kibirige; 13. Malakai Fekitoa; 12. Michael Le Bourgeois; 11. Josh Bassett; 10. Lima Sopoaga; 9. Dan Robson (C); 1. Zurabi Zhvania; 2. Tom Cruse; 3. Kieran Brookes; 4. James Gaskell; 5. Charlie Matthews; 6. Brad Shields; 7. Jack Willis; 8. Sione Vailanu
Replacements: 16. Gabriel Oghre; 17. Ben Harris; 18. Jeff Toomaga-Allen; 19. Thibaud Flament; 20. Nizaam Carr; 21. Sam Wolstenholme; 22. Jacob Umaga; 23. Juan de Jongh
Match Report from London Irish
Highlights & Report | Worcester Warriors 24-16 Leicester Tigers
Great start for Worcester
First half tries from Ted Hill and Perry Humphreys and 14 points from the boot of Duncan Weir helped Warriors to complete a quickfire double over Leicester following victory in the Premiership Rugby Cup last month.
The scoreline perhaps did not reflect how Warriors dominated for long periods of the match but handling errors and a heavy penalty count at the breakdown prevented them from converting second half pressure into more points.
But Warriors again demonstrated a fierce will to win and n ability to retain their composure under pressure with Weir levering over three penalties in the final quarter to deny Leicester a bonus point.
Weir’s accuracy proved decisive as Leicester missed three penalties including two in the final quarter when the match was still in the balance.
Leicester were unrecognisable from the side Warriors trounced in the Premiership Rugby Cup four weeks ago but it was centre Tom Hardwick, one of the few survivors from that encounter, who gave Tigers the lead with a third minute penalty.
Warriors hit back in style with a rampaging Hill clattering down the right wing after he was set free by a lovely pass from Ryan Mills. Hill had plenty to do when he got the ball but he handed off one tackler and battered his way past full-back George Worth to touch down.
Weir’s conversion from the right hand touchline struck the left post but bounced out.
Leicester hit back with try from hooker Tom Youngs who was smuggled over from a driving maul after Hardwick kicked a penalty into the corner for the lineout.
Hardwick added the extras but Warriors looked sharp in attack and they crafted a try for Perry Humphreys that was all about support play. Melani Nanai made a half-break and slipped the ball to Chris Pennell who found Cornell du Preez in support. The number eight took the ball into contact but popped it up for the supporting Humphreys who went over for his second try of the season against Leicester.
Weir added the conversion but Warriors’ lead lasted only six minutes as Hardwick slotted a penalty after Warriors were penalised at the breakdown.
That score was cancelled out by a penalty from Weir but Warriors had to defend determinedly to hold onto their lead.
Leicester kicked two penalties to the corner and again tried to force their way over from a driving maul but Warriors stole the second lineout with the final play of the first half.
Leicester did regain the lead early in the second half when Hardwick struck a penalty but that proved to be their last success as EW Viljoen and then Hardwick both missed with penalty attempts in a costly three minutes period.
Instead Weir rewarded Warriors for a passionate display by rewarding Warriors for the tenacity and picking up the penalties when they were on offer.
His longest range effort five minutes from time gave Warriors some breathing space and his last, a minute from time, started the celebrations.
Warriors | 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 1 Callum Black (Waller 56), 2 Niall Annett, 3 Conor Carey (Palframan 78), 4 Anton Bresler, 5 Graham Kitchener (Fatialofa 51), 6 Ted Hill, 7 Marco Mama (C), 8 Cornell du Preez (van Velze 63).
Replacements | 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Michael Fatialofa, 20 GJ van Velze, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Francois Venter.
3m | Hardwick pen 0-3
6m | Hill try 5-3
10m | Youngs try 5-8
11m | Hardwick con 5-10
28m | Humphreys try 10-10
29m | Weir con 12-10
35m | Hardwick pen 12-13
38m | Weir pen 15-13
48m | Hardwick pen 15-16
64m | Weir pen 18-16
75m | Weir pen 21-16
80m | Weir pen 24-16
Match Report from Worcester Warriors
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