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Monday 12 March 2012 | Published in Regional


A last-minute resurgence by the Tupapa Panthers dashed any hopes of a Ngatangiia-Matavera Sea Eagles win on their home ground at the weekend, although the hosts had the lead for most of the evenly matched game.

The Panthers pounced in the last 15 minutes of the game tearing up the Sea Eagles defence to score two last minute tries and take the game 16-14.

Conrad Piri of the Panthers was the first to put points on the board via a penalty goal which fired up the visiting Panthers.

An early disallowed Panthers try had the Sea Eagles pulling up their socks and mounting attacks on the try line.

However, tough defence and big hits from the front rowers in both sides kept scoring to a minimum.

Through grit and determination the Sea Eagles probed their way through the Panthers line and with ball in hand – Phillip Hunter slipped past Panthers captain Kore Herman and big defender Noel Emile to dot down for the first try of the game.

The try put the Ngatangiia-Matavera supporters in party mode which was heightened when the team’s hardworking Daniel Toa crossed the chalk for the team’s second try, extending the Sea Eagles lead to 8-2 heading into the half time break.

Back in the second half, risky play paid off for the Panthers when a blind backward pass was scooped up by Conrad Piri who fired the pass off to Kairan Mahia.

Mahia pulled off a superb pop pass mid tackle to a supporting team member who scored in front of a jubilant Panthers crowd.

The unconverted try closed the Sea Eagles lead to just two points, 8-6, but the Sea Eagles kept their cool, winning a penalty slotted in by Bill Tangapiri to give the Sea Eagles a bit more breathing space 10-6.

Things were looking real good for the Sea Eagles when a team effort try was scored in the corner giving the hosts a comfortable 14-6 lead.

Smelling victory in the air the Sea Eagles supporters settled back in their seats but Panthers captain Kore Herrmann had other plans as he urged his team on and with ball in hand the lofty veteran crashed across the line to score his first try of the game and igniting hope in the Panthers packs with the scores at 14-12 in favour of the Sea Eagles.

The try came via a sideline break by young Mahia who also played a hand in the final play of the day when the team’s Aitutaki import big Mau George busted through the guts of the Sea Eagles defence and offloaded to Mahia who devastated the defence on the wing to cross the line and dot down the side’s winning try, 16-14.

Try as they might the Sea Eagles ran out of time to earn a penalty or score a try – leaving Panthers supporters to head home singing ‘We are the champions’.

In other games of round 6, the Bulldogs made raw fish out of the Sharks beating their opponents 44-20 but two quick Sharks tries in the second half were a wake up call for the Bulldogs.

At Raemaru Park the Bears ran rings around the Warriors winning 48-6.

The Warriors will head to Aitutaki this weekend to meet the Sharks while the Eels will face the Panthers, and the Sea Eagles face the Bulldogs – both games will be must-see matches.