Bulldogs back in the title hunt

Monday April 23, 2018 Written by Published in League
Titikaveka Bulldogs’ Eddie Qio makes a dash for the try line against Tupapa Panthers in the feature match of round 11 at Teimurimotia Park. Bulldogs won 22-4. 18042214 Titikaveka Bulldogs’ Eddie Qio makes a dash for the try line against Tupapa Panthers in the feature match of round 11 at Teimurimotia Park. Bulldogs won 22-4. 18042214

A domestic rugby league title win may seem a mission impossible for defending champions Titikaveka Bulldogs.

However, if Saturday’s triumph over Tupapa Panthers is anything to go by, the Bulldogs are surely getting back on track to make the “impossible” possible, with a successful title defence in the Cook Islands Rugby League Association Club competition.

After a blockbuster 2017 season, the Meti Noovao-coached Bulldogs endured a jittery start with a mixed performance this season.

But a superb 22-4 win against the previously-unbeaten Panthers at Teimurimotia Park has given the boost the side needs to fight for the title in the final rounds of the competition.

At home over the weekend, the Bulldogs were impressive from the opening whistle and their solid start saw the side take a 4-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of play.

The Panthers, after a scrappy start, leveled the match 4-all with well-structured play to calm their nerves and the backing of a vocal home crowd.

However, the Bulldogs had other ideas and after squandering a try to a forward pass, the side managed to cross the whitewash for a 10-4 lead at the break.

Missing a couple of key players, who are reportedly playing overseas, the Panthers tried to bounce back in the second spell but were unable to pierce their way through a solid Bulldogs wall.

With the likes of senior players Edward Nicholas, Jamian Iroa, Seruvi Ralulu Sr, Teina Savage, Thomas Toa and others, the visitors were unable to put the finishing touch on some brilliant gains they made in the opposition territory.

The Bulldogs, spurred by their hard-hitting forwards and rampaging backline, made their opportunities count with two more tries in the second spell to seal the 22-4 win.

Coach Noovao was pleased with the performance and the win, which has sealed them the top four place in the competition points table.

Although he admitted it was a great win for the side, he said they did not want to get carried away as they needed to maintain their form in the final rounds of the competition.

“I reminded the boys before the game during the warm-up how badly we lost in the first round and told them they had to pretty much prove themselves as players, and that certainly showed in the match,” Noovao said.

“We wanted to focus on the basics and doing it right as well as focusing on our execution out wide with our centre and wingers, and that seem to go alright.

“Everything seemed to have worked out well for us and we are grateful for that. Tupapa are a great side and I have got a lot of respect for Darren Piri and his boys - and they will surely bounce back from this loss.”

In the other premier clashes over the weekend, Avatiu Nikao Eels maintained their unbeaten run and the lead in the competition after a slender 30-26 win against Arorangi Bears, while Aitutaki Sharks walloped TKV Warriors 50-22 on Friday.

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