Defending champions Tupapa Panthers are gunning for third consecutive title win in the Rarotonga Club 15s competition final this afternoon.
The side will take on Avatiu Nikao Eels in a repeat of last year’s final where the Panthers reigned supreme after a torrid battle.
These two teams have met twice this season with the Panthers winning both matches by 19-16 and 35-22.
In their last match, the Panthers were impressive for most of the 80 minutes, but then they went in “relax” mode, allowing the Eels to finish stronger.
The Eels have a tendency to drift in and out of a game however they do have the firepower to dismantle the 2019 champions this weekend – provided they stay fully-focused for the full 80 minutes.
According to Cook Islands Rugby Union’s Ben Koteka, “As 2019 champions, the pressure will be on the Panthers to defend their trophy so they will want to keep things simple in the hope that their hard-working forwards will lay a good set piece platform for their backs to create havoc.”
“The Eels will need to be patient, play smart and focus on their strengths at broken play to create time and space for their backline to operate. If the Eels can remain disciplined throughout this whole match and convert all their opportunities into points then they will win.”
The Eels will be led by their front rowers Stan Tuaivi and Toru Katuke – their “go forward” essential. Strong running backs Leki Havela and Lai Rogorogoivalu sure to be the linchpin for the Eels attack.
For the Panthers, their halves Jason Potoru and Viiga Ruepena will want to remain calm and manage the pace and direction of the team.
Koteka said: “The front battle between Panthers (Davey Toa/John Vano) against Eels (Stan/Toru) could dictate the final outcome of this match.”
In the under-16 final, the Country team have dominated for the majority of the 2020 season with the Town coming close but not good enough to string together consistent weekly winning performances.
The Town side will be led by the likes of Nooti Peraua, Maka Maui, Nuku and Terry Akava while for the Country, utility players Troy Matutu, Henry Mataio, Ryan Daniel and Abel Heather will be key.
The U19 final between Country and Town will be another interesting clash today.
Koteka said: “All season there has been a real contest in this age-group with the weekly victories being shared amongst the two teams.”
“Some of the players have used this as an opportunity to progress to the Senior A Grade which has improved the quality of the weekly U19 games.
“The Town won the last match 24-19 so that will certainly stir things up.”
Utility backs Taio Taio and Thomas Toa and their forwards Parau Ellis and Rau Nga Jr will spearhead Country’s campaign. Town will be led by their backs Waqa Bikaka, Okirua Eliu and Salvitory Ngaroi and loose forward Pui Tuaivi.
10.50am – Opening Prayer by ARC, 11am: Juniors U10 & U12s – Quick Rip, half field (Refs: Club Officials), 12 noon - U14 Rugby 15s Town-Country (Refs Ben Koteka, Assist. Ref: Club Officials). Combined presentation for U10, 12 & 14 Grades, in-front of the Club House. 1pm – U16 Town-Country (Refs: Paul Allsworth, Assistant Ref: Club Officials); 2pm – U19 Town-Country Takitumu-Avatiu/Nikao Eels (Refs: Peter Godfrey, Assist. Ref: Dawn Crummer/William Taripo). Combined presentation for U16 & 19 Grades, in-front of the Club House. 3.50pm: Both Senior A teams to assemble in front of the Clubhouse for the singing of the national anthem before the teams are announced onto the field. 4pm: Senior A Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu-Nikao Eels (Refs: Teokotai Tuaivi Jr, Assist. Ref: Tua Ngaputa/Kora Kora. In Goal Officials Sean Willis/Paul Peryroux. Sub Bench: Cathy Peyroux/Simiona Teiotu). Post-match Senior A Grade presentation: Speech by CIRU President. Speech by both Team Captains – runner up & then winning Capt. Closing prayer by ARC