Bulldogs lead as champions edge way back

Monday April 03, 2017 Written by Published in League
A strong second half performance from the Warriors was not enough to stave off a 42-26 loss to the Eels on Saturday. 17040361 A strong second half performance from the Warriors was not enough to stave off a 42-26 loss to the Eels on Saturday. 17040361

Defending champions Avatiu Nikao Eels are edging towards the top of the table in the rugby league after winning their first match in Round Two.

 

The side which was on bye a week ago resumed their title defence campaign with a 42-26 win over Takuvaine Warriors on Saturday at The Swamp.

The win takes the Albert Nicholas-coached team to nine points in third place with a match in hand.

The Warriors, who stunned the Arorangi Bears at home a week ago, remain in fifth spot on four points.

The Vase Samania-coached side started at a slow pace against the Eels with a frustrating first-half performance.

The team was unable to find its footing against a much sharper looking home side that capitalised on the opportunities to run tries at their own will.

Eels after their two losses and a draw had to win the match at any cost to remain a force in the 2017 season. They proved lethal in attack and put on a well organised defensive play to keep the visitors at bay.

Warriors were a much better team in the second spell especially towards the final quarter of the match, making some impressive runs against the Eels.

Eels with a healthy lead were forced to backpedal at times, but remained sturdy to ease away with the comfortable win.

“I guess the boys didn’t concentrate enough to see this game through,” Warriors coach Samania said.

“When you play a champion team like the Eels, you cannot afford to sit back because they will punish you.

“We came back in the second half but, I guess, we missed too many chances in the opening half to make any impact.”

Samania said finishing in the top four remained their priority as they hope to gain maximum points from their remaining five matches. 

He said while it would be a tough ask to make it through to the semifinals, he remained hopeful of their chances.

“We’ve got a good team with players who can perform to the level we expect from them. The bond in the team is pretty strong and we hope to take advantage of that to win some of the matches and hopefully make the top four.”

Eels mentor Nicholas was pleased to get back in the winning form after successive losses to Tupapa Panthers and Titikaveka Bulldogs.

“We had a good first half but it was a 50-50 in the second half where the Warriors managed to get them under their skin and annoy them,” he said.

Meanwhile he praised new referee June Henry for “his superb control” of the game.

In the other premier clash on Saturday, Bulldogs defeated Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles 32-14 to take the top spot in the competition with 12 points.

Sea Eagles remain at the bottom with Aitutaki Sharks which lost to Arorangi Bears on Friday.

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