Dogs battle into grand final

Monday May 15, 2017 Written by Published in League

A clever dropkick from the Titikaveka Bulldogs against defending champions Avatiu Nikao Eels saw the side earn a direct entry to the Cook Islands rugby league domestic competition grand final.

 

In the battle for a direct qualification to the final on Friday at the BCI Stadium in Nikao, the Bulldogs managed to overcome the Eels 13-12.

The Meti Noovao-coached Bulldogs looked sharp from the opening whistle and played like men possessed in an intense battle against the Eels.

Eels were put to sword by strong attacking play by their opponents who took every opportunity to gain ground and head for the try line.

The Eels had their moments of brilliance, but put on a shadow of the performances they exhibited in the final rounds of competition.

Bulldogs led 8-4 at the break, setting up a titanic battle in the second half.

With the intention to make a comeback in the match the Eels put their bodies on the line to defend an early barrage of attacks from the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs, who finished the preliminary round in second spot, maintained their momentum from the opening half to heave more pressure on a disjointed looking Eels defence.

Their relentless effort paid off when Reece Joyce crossed the line for the crucial try to extend their lead to 12-4.

Moments later, Joyce produced another masterpiece when he struck the field goal to give Bulldogs a 13-4 lead.

Running out of time, the anxious Eels marshalled up their attack but were let down by ball handling errors which cost them a try.

Bulldogs defended tirelessly for most of the second spell to maintain the lead, but let Eels speedster Samu Alafua escape in the dying stages of the match to concede a try.

But that try proved a little too late as Bulldogs held on to the slender 13-12 lead to win a direct spot to the final.

Elated coach Noovao dedicated the win to his players and supporters that turned out in numbers to back the side.

“The boys really deserved the win but still full credit to Albert’s (Nicholas) Eels. They played a great game and the way Eels played today brought the best out of us,” he said.

“We just seem to have played a little bit smarter and minimised on our mistakes. It was a close game but in the end we survived.

“That field goal was very vital. We won by just one point so that field goal really mattered. No disrespect to other teams but this game really felt like a grand finale.”

Eels will have another crack in defending their title when they will take on Tupapa Panthers in the semifinals this Saturday.

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