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Monday 13 May 2024 | Written by Solomone Taukei | Published in Rugby league, Sports


Eels, Lady Panthers crowned Rarotonga 13s champions
Avatiu Nikao Eels players and supporters celebrate after winning the Cook Islands Rugby League Rarotonga 13s competition on Saturday. The Eels defeated Tupapa Panthers 26-14 in the final held at the National Stadium in Nikao. SOLOMONE TAUKEI/ 24051210

The Cook Islands Rugby League season reached an electrifying climax as spectators were treated to a spectacle of intense matches in the Rarotonga 13s competition finals that kept them on the edge of their seats and unveiled new champions in premier men’s and senior women’s grades.

The grand final held at the National Stadium in Nikao on Saturday kicked off with the junior grades 14 and 16 locking horns in a battle of sheer determination.

The Tupapa Panthers entered the arena with unwavering confidence, aiming to sweep the junior tournament. However, the Ngatangiia Sea Eagles were determined not to let this opportunity slip by, fiercely contesting every move.

It was a nail-biting showdown, with both sides leaving nothing to chance. In the end, victory belonged to the team that displayed the greatest hunger and made the fewest mistakes.

As the full-time siren echoed through the stadium, it was the Ngatangiia Sea Eagles who emerged triumphant, claiming victory in both junior grades. The final scores of 8-4 in favour of the Sea Eagles for the under 14 grade, and 56-10 for the under 16 grade, sealed their well-deserved championship win.

The Lady Panthers reclaimed the senior women’s title after beating last year’s champions Lady Bears 24-14 in the final. SOLOMONE TAUKEI/ 24051212

In the senior women’s final, the tension was intense as momentum swung back and forth, each team relentlessly pursuing victory.

The Lady Panthers wasted no time, seizing an early lead within the first minute from a remarkable try by Eseta Batiratu, igniting their confidence for the match ahead.

However, the Lady Bears, who won the title in 2023, swiftly countered, showcasing their determination to triumph.

As the game progressed and the second half approached its climax, the Panthers seized control of the momentum, scoring two consecutive tries in quick succession. This surge reinforced their position and ultimately secured them the championship title.

The battle was fierce, with both teams demonstrating skill, resilience, and a hunger for success. Yet, in the end, it was the Lady Panthers who emerged triumphant 24-14, their relentless pursuit of victory concluding in a well-deserved championship win.

The unbeaten Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles U16 side after thumping Tupapa Panthers 56-10 in the final on Saturday. 24051209

The final showdown in the Premiership Men’s division was like a thunderstorm rolling in, with both the Avatiu Nikao Eels and their rivals locked in a fierce battle for the championship. The stadium crackled with energy as fans roared and stomped, eager for the clash to begin. On the field, players’ eyes gleamed with determination, each one hungry for victory.

Right from the start, it was clear this wasn’t going to be an ordinary match. The Eels, known for their clever moves, wasted no time showing off their skills. They darted across the field like lightning bolts, scoring points with quick kicks and tricky moves that left the Tupapa Panthers responding strongly.

The Panthers weren’t about to back down. They fought tooth and nail, blocking passes and tackling with all their might. The first half was a whirlwind of action, with both sides pushing themselves to the limit, each trying to gain the upper hand.

As halftime approached, the tension in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife. The Avatiu Eels, sensing an opportunity, stepped up their game. With lightning-fast reflexes and a bit of luck, they managed to sneak in a couple of quick scores, sending their fans into a frenzy of cheers and applause.

But the game was far from over. The Panthers, determined to make a comeback, dug deep and fought back with everything they had. The second half was a back-and-forth battle, with both sides trading blows and refusing to give an inch.

The Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles U14 side after beating Tupapa Panthers 8-4 in the final on Saturday. CIRL/24051208

In the end, it all came down to the final moments of the game. With time running out, the Eels managed to score two more epic goals, sealing their 26-14 victory and sending the stadium into a wild eruption of cheers and celebration. The Eels also won the Minor Premiership for finishing on top of the table after preliminary rounds.

Reflecting on the intense match, Eels coach Clive Nicholas, the brains behind the Eels’ operation, spoke about the challenges they faced.

“We had some tough moments out there,” Nicholas said. “But we knew we had to stay focused and keep pushing forward if we wanted to win.”

Nicholas also praised his team’s strategy, saying, “We knew we had to play smart and use our strengths to our advantage. And in the end, it paid off.”

As the final whistle blew, the Avatiu Eels stood victorious, their fans cheering them on with pride. It was a moment they would never forget, a triumph that would go down in history as one of the greatest moments in Cook Islands rugby league.