Turning up with the right mindset is what Panthers veteran Thomas Toa says is the reason his team triumphed in this weekend’s rugby grand final.
Tupapa retained the Bond Store senior men’s club rugby championship trophy, beating the Avatiu Eels 15-5.
“I had trust that everyone would come with the right mind,” commented the humble leader after the game.
In front of a large grand final crowd of visitors and locals at the Arorangi Raemaru Park sports grounds, the Panthers’ impressive defence withstood the Eels’ intense attack in what was an evenly contested match.
“It could have been anyone’s game and we learned from our past mistakes to play better each week,” added Toa, who as always, was in the thick of the grand final action.
In the round-robin and semis, honours were evenly split between Tupapa and Avatiu. The grand final decided everything.
Despite having plenty of chances, the Eels were unable to break through the Panthers and convert their opportunities into points and at times were their own worst enemies in the greasy conditions.
Meanwhile the sharp shooting boots of Viiga Rupena of the Panthers not only kept the scoreboard ticking over for the goal-kicking win but his ability to dictate the direction and pace of the game earned him the best and fairest player of the tournament award for Tupapa.
The same award for best and fairest player for the Avatiu Eels went to forward Stanley Tuaivi (Jnr).
The only try of the game, an unconverted first half try to the Eels through Clive Nicholas kept the Eels in the hunt to trail by one point 6-5 at the half time break.
Shifty winds in a kicking-game second spell was in the Panthers favour as they capitalised on Eels errors with Viiga Rupena proving to be a wind whisperer. He scored all the Panthers’ point with the boot: is 100 per cent accurate kicking the main contributor to the Tupapa Panthers winning two club rugby champions title in a row.
The Cook Islands Rugby Union would like to thank the Arorangi Sports family for a fantastic host of the 2019 grand finals and to all the village clubs and sponsors.
Next on the rugby calendar for village clubs is the Steinlager Sevens competition kicking off on October 12 – the perfect build up for the November Sevens in Heaven Tournament.