The Avatiu/Nikao Eels defeated the Reds 33-17 the last time these two teams met in round six, a score line that doesn’t really reflect how close the game actually was.
Although the Eels managed to score 26 points unanswered, they gave the game away at the end, letting the Reds score 17 in pretty quick fashion that may have threatened the result, had they not built such an unassailable lead.
George George, the former Avatiu/Nikao captain, recognises the threat that the Reds pose, as they have been the in-form team over the past five weeks.
“I expect it will be a thriller between these two, because of the history, and neither team will take a back step,” George said.
“But I am a bit worried. We pride ourselves on winning, and coming off back-to-back loses to (the unbeaten) Tupapa Panthers, the leaders of the team will really need to step up.”
Those back-to-back loses are why the Eels are playing for a place in the final, and will need to rebound strongly if they want to face the Panthers for a fourth time.
“We pride ourselves on winning, and especially with the game at the Swamp, the players will want to do the jersey proud.”
George has been very impressed by the young loosie Tama Nicholas, but also acknowledges that the battle in the forwards cannot be won by a single player.
“Nicholas, he reminds me of myself a bit when I played. He’s incredibly dynamic, even though he is quite young, and he’ll be one of the guys that will be leading from the front.
“But in saying that, he’ll need help from the rest of the forwards. Because they’ll need to set a strong platform to give their great backs room to run.
“Guys like John Penu, Samu Alafua and Tua Ravula, they’re like jet planes, so you need to give them room to run.”
While the Eels will rely on their forwards to prove them with momentum up front, one of the reasons they have been so successful this season is because they have been able to create something out of nothing.
Players like Ravula and midfielder Vahe Leki have stood out in this regard, as they take multiple defenders to take them down, allowing them to offload out of contact to a player in a favourable matchup.
This gave the Reds fits in their last match, as they struggled to contain the powerful running of their opponent’s backline, but George expects that they’ll be ready.
“A smart coach will know what the Eels do well, and Vase (Samania, the Reds coach) is a smart one, so he’ll know that they’ll have to stop the ball from getting past the number 10.”
Since losing to Tupapa 33-31 in round seven, the Reds have arguably been the top side in the competition, winning four matches on the trot, and were very convincing last week as they outmatched the Cowboys 39-20.
Leading only by two points at the half, the Reds have shown that they are truly an 80-minute team, as they have a fantastic bench that does not weaken the side when they make replacements.
Watch out for multi-skilled utility back Viiga Ruepena, powerful midfielder Tevita Niusama and robust loose forward Christian Hosking, who will need big performances if they are to pull off the upset away from home.
Venue : Avatiu Field
1.00pm: U6 – 12yrs: “Get into Rugby” Programme – all clubs (boys & girls) are welcome to attend. Bus transport will be provided, sausage sizzle afterwards. 2.30pm: U13 - Dragons-Cowboys (Referee: William Taripo, Assistant Referees: club officials). Takuvaine Reds vs. Avatiu /Nikao Eels: 4.00pm – Senior A (Referee: Pare Rongokea, Assistant Referees : Peter Godfrey/ Tua Ngaputa, In Goal: Dawn Crummer/ Paul Peyroux, Inter-Change: Alan Nanai) Referee Coordinator: Simiona Teiotu/ Kora Kora/ Papa Tom Wills/ Ben Koteka