In the Bond Store Match of the Day we saw a contest and a half – with top four spots on offer, both teams played themselves to a standstill.
It was a match that could have gone either way, but the desperate Reds’ defensive screen scrambled well to clean up most threats and by leading throughout the entire match they seemed to just have that little bit extra to finish in front of the unlucky Eels, who outscored them by two tries to one.
Best players for the Eels were loose forward Tokerau Raru and front rowers Toru Katuke and Stanley Tobia. Great to see former national sevens and fifteens player Aaron Enoka turn out for the Eels at Number 8 too.
Best players for the Reds were their halves combination of Viiga Ruepena and Fale Sooialo, and also their aggressive midfielders Logan Perenise and Joshua Koroi.
In the other match, the Arorangi Cowboys scored a much-needed victory over the Titikaveka Bulls.
It was obvious that this was a “do or die” match for both teams and whoever won this match would confirm their top four spot in 2018.
With a high number of Fijian players in their team and an unstructured style of play, the Bulls proved difficult for the Cowboys to break down.
The Bulls came to play and they were in the race for most of this match, leading by 11-8 early in the second half, courtesy of a brilliant 40-metre solo try scored by their second five-eighth Matthew Sakai.
It wasn’t until the 53rd minute of the match that the Cowboys started to convert their opportunities into points via the boot of Basil Matapo and then a try to midfielder Andre Iro, a turning point which seemed to break the Bulls.
Again the impact off the bench of the Cowboys running forwards Tanire Mokoroa, Daniel ‘Magic’ Tonorio and Brendan Smith stepped up the pace from the middle of the second half and the Bulls were unable to sustain the pressure.
Best players for the Cowboys were loose forwards Rhys Evans and Robert Heather Jr, halfback Basil Matapo, and first five-eighth Tyson Oaariki, thanks to their impressive organisational skills.
The best players for the Bulls were busy loose forwards Richie Connal and Eddie Qui, and also strong-running midfielder Mattew Sakai.
Takuvaine Reds 17 – Try: John Penu; Pen: Viiga Ruepena (4). Avatiu Eels 15 – Tries: Toru Katuke, Paki Ngaoire; Conv & Pen: Leki Heavala.
Arorangi Cowboys 34 – Tries: Tony Turaki Jr (2), Andre Iro, Pakia Wichman, Daniel Tonorio; Pen: Basil Matapo (2), Tyson Oaariki. Titikaveka Bulls 11 – Try: Matthew Sakai; Pen: Teariki Matenga Jr (2).