Panthers to host the Eels again

Thursday September 07, 2017 Written by Published in Rugby Union
Spectators may hope for a more open play this Saturday between the two top sides. 17090532 Spectators may hope for a more open play this Saturday between the two top sides. 17090532

The Tupapa Panthers and the Avatiu/Nikao Eels will square off once again this weekend in the first round of the Rarotonga Club 15s knockout stages.


Victoria Park in Tupapa will host the teams for the second week in a row, and the home side Panthers will hope for a repeat of the 13-10 win last Saturday.

While Tupapa fans will hope for a similar result, former Cook Islands rugby captain and coach George George believes that the flow of the game could greatly improve.

“Last week, for me personally, I found it very frustrating to watch,” George said, who was providing commentary for the game.

“I was really looking forward to it, but it was far too ill-disciplined. At this level, with the quality that both teams possess, it was disappointing to see the game dominated by penalties.”

At times it looked like both teams were more interested in getting one over on their opponents, and the constant niggly nature of the game lead to three yellow cards being handed out for tackle offences.

“It really wasn’t much of a rugby game. So much of it took place in the middle of the park, which you wouldn’t have expected from teams that enjoy such great attacking players.”

Known as ‘The General’ from his playing days, George holds out hope for an improved attitude come Saturday, though because of the quality of both teams he was unable to pick a winner.

“It’ll be a nail biting game for sure. I mean, last week was very close, but after both teams took a measure of each other last week, they might have identified strengths and weaknesses of the other,” George explained.

“One player I’m really looking out for, because he had a great game last week, is flanker Filipo Schmidt.

“He scored a try last week and showed a great work rate. He was one of the key reasons why the Panthers had such a balance between their backs and forwards. All the players know their roles, which is why they are such an outstanding team.”

On the opposite side, George hopes that the Eels will unleash game-breaking winger Samu Alafua, who was underused last week.

“You look at their backline, how stacked it is, and this is the guy that really stands out – he’s like the Rolls Royce of their team. And what’s the point of having such a great vehicle if you aren’t going to use it?

“Once he gets rolling, he’s incredibly fast and it’s just difficult to stop a guy like that. And when you think about other guys on that team, like centre Vahe Leki and outside back John Penu, they just need to get these guys the ball.”

The Panthers and the Eels will face off as the number one and two seeds, with the winner going straight to the finals, held in two weeks, while the loser gets another game against the winner of the other match between the third and fourth seed.

Contesting that match will be the Takuvaine Reds against the Arorangi Cowboys, which will be covered in tomorrow’s edition of CINews.

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