Monday 7 May 2012 | Published in Regional
Physical rugby league matches drew out the crowds on a wet Saturday afternoon for the final round of the 2012 season.
At Victoria Park, the top ranked Tupapa Panthers wasted no time in crushing the Takuvaine Warriors 48-8.
The Panthers have looked sharp this season and no doubt are confident of a championship title heading into next week’s quarterfinal against the Avatiu Eels who faced a fired up Ngatangiia Sea Eagles at Nukupure Park.
The Sea Eagles were intense from the first whistle in the action-packed match with big Thomas Toa crossing the line first and signalling to the Eels that it wasn’t going to be an easy day at the office.
Responding almost immediately to the challenge, the Eels put the ball in the hands of national weightlifter Sirla Pera who broke through the Sea Eagles defence before popping the ball to Ben Maaka to score for the Eels.
The try locked up the scores 6-all and soon after the Eels were on the attack again with creative director Bobby Hansen combining with Maaka to put Pera across the line for the Eels second try and take the lead 10-6.
Never one to sit and watch the action, the Sea Eagles got into the try scoring frenzy too with two quick tries coming from Thomas Toa and Mac to give the hosts the lead 18-10.
Eels bruiser, Mark Charlie then got in on the try scoring action busting his way through the Sea Eagles to do down and close the scores to 16-18 in favour of the Sea Eagles.
Handling errors were definitely a feature of the game as sporadic rain and high humidity made for tough work on the field.
Keeping the ball in hand though, the Eels rallied for a winger’s try just on the half time hooter to lead 20-18 at the half time break.
The tit-for-tat tries continued in the second half with the Sea Eagles the first to score again to edge ahead of the Eels 22-20.
After having helping create tries for his team mates, Bobby Hansen decided to have a go himself and score a try to give the Eels a slim 26-22 lead.
The Eels ran in two more tries, including one by Terry Piri, to comfortably lead 36-22 as the minutes ticked away.
The Sea Eagles kept probing and for his hard work all game the team’s bruising runner Clinton Charlie was rewarded with a try to close in on the Eels but it was the Eels that had the last word with two tries.
The final try was scored by Duane Gukisuva who had made great yardage throughout the game, though the try was a result from a Mathew Titoa break, to take out the game 48-28.
In Aitutaki the Bears had a game on their hands when the lowly ranked Sharks played with guts but the third based Bears, who upset top ranked Panthers last week, were not going to be knocked down, taking the tight game 26-20.
The second quarterfinal next week will be a cracker between the Bears and fourth placed Bulldogs.
The winner of the game will meet the winner of the Panthers and Eels game for the semi finals.
Meanwhile the Takuvaine Warriors, Takuvaine Sharks and Ngatangiia-Matavera Sea Eagles hang their boots up after a tough season filled with loads of highs and lows.