Tuesday 9 May 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in League, Sports
Clive Nicholas was disappointed with his side’s 20-34 loss to the Bears in the do or die encounter at Victoria Park in Tupapa.
The Bobby Hansen-coached Bears will face defending champions Tupapa Panthers in the final this Saturday.
Nicholas whose Eels made a brilliant start to their campaign with an unbeaten run in round one, started faltering in the second round after going down to the Panthers and Bears. Despite the losses, they finished on top winning the minor premiership and played the Panthers in the top place playoff a week ago. The side lost the match 34-36 and had another chance to make the final against the Bears on Saturday.
“We lost to a much hungrier and more disciplined side. As a coach to see the way Arorangi played against us, they were playing like we did most of the season, the tables were turned. They were playing the basic game, getting their basics right and they came to hurt us and that’s what happened. Unfortunately we couldn’t handle them,” Nicholas said.
“Our boys were falling all over the place, they wanted to come out of the field and that was not a good image for Avatiu.
“All credit to Arorangi and Bobby being an ex-Avatiu player, this is a different Arorangi side.”
Nicholas said the departure of their senior players Lai Rogorogoivalu and Leki Vahefoou who featured in round one affected their round two campaign.
He said they also missed the services of their skipper Leo Roa who was ruled out of the semi-final due to concussion.
The team also had a player red carded and another sinbinned in the second spell against the Bears.
“This is a men’s game, not a boy’s game. Arorangi have a lot of men, Tupapa have a lot of men. We struggled with injuries (among senior players) and we had youngsters who were fit and fast but at the end of the day it’s all about discipline and basic footy. But no excuses, we lost to a better side.”
Former Cook Islands and NZ Warriors rep Meti Noovao said “there’s a new breed rising” in the Bears.
“What a game, it was a tooth and nail fight especially between the forward packs. It was very brutal game and some heavy collisions and I think Arorangi just laid the platform down for their halves to control and direct their play. They found more space to create opportunities,” Noovao said.
“Also, Andre (Iro) made a difference for them, he played very well and showed experience and fitness. He’s a class player.”
Noovao said the Eels lacked discipline especially in the crucial second spell and continuity when it came to ball handing and other basic plays.
“The Bears just made good use of the opportunities they created and capitalised on Eels’ mistakes. They put the pressure on the Eels straightaway.
“One thing they need to do is to learn to play to the conditions.”
Efforts to get comments from the Bears management team proved futile.
The Bears versus the Panthers final will be held on Saturday at Nukupure Park in Ngatangiia.
In the women’s final on Friday, Lady Panthers will take on Lady Bears at Nukupure Park.