Defending champions and points table leader’s Avatiu Nikao Eels are bracing for a mighty fightback from the Titikaveka Bulldogs in the major premier clash of the week at the BCI Stadium in Nikao.
A lot will be at stake in this match, but nothing more than a direct entry to the showdown in two weeks’ time.
The loser of the match will still have a chance to make the final and will play the winner of the Tupapa Panthers and Arorangi Bears game tomorrow, in the semifinal next week.
Eels and Bulldogs have met twice this season with the latter taking the first one out at Teimurimotia Park while the former winning their second encounter at The Swamp.
Eels coach Albert Nicholas said given what was at stake in this match, he expects a tough battle from the Bulldogs.
He said like any other playoffs, today’s clash would be an exciting one.
“There are two situations here, either go through to the final the easy way by winning this match or the hard way. It can either work for you or against you,” Nicholas said.
“In saying that, we will not take anything for granted. We will go there and play to our best. We have been preparing as much as we can and we hope it will pay the dividend with the win.
“And we don’t want that to be incomplete without our fans supporting us out there. So we invite our supporters to come in numbers and back the team.”
Eels have a strong mix of players with massive experience to carry them through to the final stage.
But Bulldogs have an equally intimidating squad to cause problems for their opponent.
The side with a burly forward pack have put on some dominant performances with their strong drives in their past matches.
But Bulldogs coach Meti Noovao knows the task tonight will be a much tougher one.
“This is like the City versus the Country encounter. Albert and I know well what we want from this game and the players know the expectations,” Noovao said.
“We as coaches have done what we had to do, the onus is now on the players. They have to do their part on the field.”
Noovao said given the rivalry between the two clubs and the match would be a spectacular one.
“It will all come down to the mental preparation now and it will be all about playing smarter on the field,” he said.
“We would rather put everything on the table in this match rather than going through the long and hard way to the final and I’m sure the Eels will be planning the same.
“We just want the fans to come and enjoy this game because it will be an entertaining one.”
Meanwhile the Arorangi side of the stadium is closed due to construction of the Tereora College and the entry is from the main gate and the back gate entry from Aunty Mau’s Store.
Entry fee to today’s match is $5 for adult and $2 for children.
“I am aware of the court case brought against CIRL by the Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles. We will carry on with our schedule as agreed by the CIRL executives and will deal to the situation as required,” Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson said.
The hearing is today. - RK
Today at BCI Stadium – 4.30pm Premiers Avatiu (1)-Titikaveka (2) (Ref: Nga Takaiti, TJs: Koa Kopu/William Taripo, Bench: Bishop Bishop/ Papa Pat).
Tomorrow at BCI Stadium – 12.10pm U11 Eels-Bears (Ref: Jeff Murray), U11 Panthers-Eagles (Ref: Dawn Crummer), 12.40pm Under 13 Eels-Panthers (Ref: Jeff Murray), 1.25pm Under 13 Bears-Eagles (Ref Dawn Crummer), 2.10pm Reserves Avatiu (1)-Tupapa (2) (Ref: Tua Manea, TJs: Pete Robertson/Taoro Brown), 3.20pm Reserves Ngatangiia (3)-Titikaveka (4) (Ref: Poso Ngaroi, TJs: Paul Allsworth/Kora Kora), 4.30pm Premiers Tupapa (3)-Arorangi (4) (Ref: June Henry, TJs: Dawn Crummer/ Paul Peyroux, Bench: Pius Mitchell/ Paul Allsworth).