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Avatiu Nikao Eels ‘team to beat’

Monday 6 March 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in League, Sports

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Avatiu Nikao Eels ‘team to beat’
Avatiu Nikao Eels fullback Brian Akava makes a break against Arorangi Bears at Aretere Park on Saturday. 23030520

Avatiu Nikao Eels made a strong comeback in the second spell to beat a determined Arorangi Bears in week four of the Cook Islands Rugby League domestic 13s competition over the weekend.

A strong halftime talk by no nonsense coach Clive Nicholas saw the Eels get their act together against the Bears at home on Saturday.

Trailing by 4-8 at the break, Nicholas did not hold back giving his players a “good spray” to inspire them to a 34-12 win.

The Eels were a much better side in the second spell and scored consecutive early tries to beat a gallant Bears who fought till the end.

“There was nothing technical, I told them straightforward, a good spray from a coach to the players – to be a man, roll their sleeves and get to work,” Nicholas said.

“We were a much fitter side, I trained majority of the players for the past six months and I know they are mentally and physically fit. I just stressed that they needed to be more creative in the second spell.”

The Eels farewelled their skipper Leki Vahefoou, who left for overseas, prior to the match as well as another player who is away on holiday. The team also missed two senior players due to injuries.

“I could see from the warm up the boys were a bit down but I reminded and challenged them to show their character in the team and they delivered.”

Nicholas had only three players on the bench and had to lace up his boots as the fourth reserve player.

Touch rugby star Puna Hiro was brought in to provide cover and he delivered especially in the second spell.

“I have a good relationship with Puna and he always avails himself whenever I needed him. He played a huge role in the second half.”

Nicholas hailed the rest of his players including his ever-reliable fullback Brian Akava for stepping up in the second spell and coming away with a win.

The win puts the Eels back on top ahead of the defending champions Tupapa Panthers who beat Titikaveka Bulldogs 40-16 on Friday.

“I know the whole island would be after us because we are now the team to beat in the competition,” Nicholas said.

In the women’s match held on Friday, Lady Panthers beat Lady Eels 18-10 at Aretere Park in Avatiu.