Avatiu Nikao Eels face a must win in the Rarotonga Club 15s competition today.
The team will take on Takitumu in the opening playoffs at Victoria Park in Tupapa. In the other playoffs, defending champions Tupapa Panthers will battle Arorangi Cowboys.
The winner of the Panthers versus the Cowboys match will head into the final while the loser will play the winner of the Eels versus Takitumu match in next week’s semi-final.
Competition coordinator Ben Koteka said: “This weeks’ draw is a replay of last weeks’ however, this week the situation changes big-time with either your team (Panthers or Cowboys) receiving a ticket to the final or in the case of Takitumu or Eels, a ticket to next weeks’ major semi’.”
The Eels defeated Takitumu 40-12 last week.
However fast forward to this week the stakes change ten-fold being knockout sudden-death time with the loser packing-up their bags for 2020.
“Like I have said all year Takitumu have lots of potential but they have been a 40-minute team – they seem to play well in the first half and then run out of steam or start slowly but win the second half only,” Koteka said.
“If only they could play for the full 80 minutes then they could surprise us all and even themselves! Could this weekend be the start?”
Although the Eels were comprehensive winners last week, they know that the pressure will be on them to deliver victory again this afternoon.
As seasoned performers they will not allow for complacency to spoil their plans and will prefer to do their talking on the field.
Players to watch out for Takitumu are energetic front rowers Clerk Ngaau and Ngamata Miriau and utility back James Tofilau and for the Eels, their rookie forwards Aden Kapi, Genesis Piri and Joshua Caffery.
In the feature match, the Cowboys will be eyeing another win over the Panthers after last week’s 16-11 victory.
Koteka said: “The Cowboys will need to be up to the challenge again this week with the Panthers sure to be in redemption-mode.”
“Last week the 2019 champion Panthers had an ‘off-day’ at the office with some players not committed to the cause.”
On the other hand, the Cowboys got physical and that flustered and frustrated the Panthers attack who were unable to get into their flow – every Panthers attack was met with persistent Cowboys defense led by midfielder Steven Willis and loose forward Penilito Lio.
“If the Cowboys play with the same intensity and self-belief as last week then we will be in for another arm wrestle.”
The Panthers will need to forget about last weeks’ loss and re-focus on their strengths which is team work based on speed and skill.
“This weekend playing on home territory their coach Darren Piri is sure to have the players fired-up for this match that will see the winner progress straight through to the grand finals in two weeks’ time.”
The Cowboys will be led by the likes of Rob Heather Jr and Tanire Mokoroa with the objective to minimise or disrupt the supply of possession to the Panthers.
For the Panthers, “game management will be the call of the day; to respect and retain possession with the objective to build pressure, spot any mis-matches for their fleet-footed backline to expose”.
“Watch out for their halves Jason Potoru and Viiga Ruepena to dictate the pace and flow of the game.”
11am: Under 10s & U12s - Junior Quick Rip ALL Clubs, 11.40am: U14 Town v Country - Rugby 15s (2x 15 mins), 12.20pm: Under 16s Town v Country – Rugby 10s (2x 20mins), 1.10pm: Under 19s Town v Country – Rugby 15s (2x 5mins), 2.30pm: Senior A: Takitumu v Avatiu Eels, 4pm: Senior A: Arorangi Cowboys v Tupapa Panthers. Gate Entry: Adults $3. Under 16: Free