Monday 20 February 2012 | Published in Regional
The Aitutaki Sharks rugby league team’s body-on-the-line style of play and clinical tries have gone a long way to proving they belong in the national competition – although they were mauled by the Arorangi Bears 44-26.
The bruising encounter at Raemaru Park was the Sharks first outing of the season and they certainly put up a huge fight in the first half of the match forcing the Bears to lift the tempo of the game.
The Bears opened up the game with two quick tries to take the early lead 10-0 before the Sharks brought the Aitutaki flair to the park with two outstanding tries of their own.
The first try was a brilliant team effort started by Messine Manapori who directed the play towards the hulking Daniel Tutai on the wing who monstered his way through and over Bears defenders before offloading the ball to Sam Hewitt who pinned his ears back and bolted across the chalk.
The side’s second try was a carbon copy of the first and with Tutai acing the conversion the Sharks took the lead in the game 12-10, sending their large crowd of supporters into a frenzy of celebrations.
With the score so tight, the intensity of the match lifted with tempers flaring and a Bears player binned.
Despite being down one man the Bears’ young stars stepped up with a break through try coming via young Andrew Purua and re-establishing the Bears lead 16-12.
The final quarter of the first half was a tit-for-tat show with the Pita Ngatua dotting down for the Sharks before Rouru Une of the Bears replied on the half time hooter to give the Bears a slim 20-18 lead at the break.
The first half action and tight scores promised big things for the second half but the Sharks returned to the field with their eyes shut as the Bears ran in five unanswered tries – the majority of which came straight from the kick off.
Finally the Sharks woke from their slumber to dot down twice more but it was all too late as the Bears had already won the game early in the second half finishing off the Sharks 44-26.
The first half efforts of the Sharks were certainly impressive and gave supporters hope of a huge upset but their second half performance didn’t help their cause in proving their worth on the national competition.
The Sharks will face the slippery Eels this week – an Eels pack that’s growing into an anaconda as the defending champions establish their dominance.
At the weekend the Eels faced a sharp and young Ngatangiia-Matavera Sea Eagles pack lead by the able Willie Kauvai but after dominating proceedings in the early parts of the game had their wings clipped by the Eels who eventually won the match 28-18 with the forward pack of Bilsy Gukisuva, Mark Charlie, Papa Ta and Lui Nicholas playing a big role in the win.
Despite the Eels win they had their fair share of fumbles with numerous handling errors causing much eye rolling from the crowd.
Across at Tupapa the very polished Panthers demolished a demoralised Takuvaine Warriors side 44-0. After a very good performance by the Warriors in round one and two against the Eels and the Bulldogs losing both games in the last quarter, everyone was wondering whether they are still in recovery mode after those two tough games.
That fighting Warrior spirit was not there with the players who will need to find this before they face the Sea Eagles this coming weekend.