Fan forks out for 'Umaga's handbag'

Wellington - A woman's handbag that one of New Zealand's most famous rugby players used to bash a team-mate around the head in a bar sold for NZ$22 800 on an Internet website on Saturday, news reports said.

The bidding took a farcical twist on Friday, with one bid topping NZ$100-million. Staff at the Trade Me website reportedly spent hours trying to authenticate offers and warning pranksters that they would be banned from future auctions.

"The pandemonium surrounding the auction is causing a few people to lose their heads," Trade Me chief executive Sam Morgan told the New Zealand Herald.

"It doesn't help that it is a Friday night and people are sitting at their PCs with a couple of beers."

Morgan said the bids were legally binding, and after a day of frenzied attention, during which Radio New Zealand reported the latest top bid in every news bulletin, the auction closed as scheduled at 7pm local time at NZ$22 800.

Christchurch woman Nicole Davis's handbag became famous last Sunday when Tana Umaga, former captain of the national All Blacks rugby team, picked it up to hit stocky team-mate Chris Masoe after he had thrown a punch at another drinker in a bar.

Umaga used enough force to smash a cellphone inside the bag and Masoe burst into tears, wrecking the player's macho image.

A stunned Davis, who said that friends urged her to auction the bag and the phone, told Television New Zealand: "It's really, really, odd. I can't believe people would actually pay money for it." - Sapa-dpa

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