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Bears win heats up top two battle in league 13s

Tuesday 4 April 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in League, Sports


Bears win heats up top  two battle in league 13s
Lady Bears ended Lady Panthers’ winning streak after a 24-10 win at Raemaru Park in Arorangi on Friday. Pictured are the Bears players after their round one match against the Eels. CIRL/23040321

Arorangi Bears’ sensational win over Tupapa Panthers in the premier men’s and women’s division over the weekend has spiced up the race for top two finish in the Cook Islands Rugby League 13s competition.

On Friday, Lady Bears ended Lady Panthers’ winning streak after a 24-10 win at Raemaru Park in Arorangi.

The men’s team continued the momentum with a superb 22-18 win over Tupapa Panthers on Saturday also at Raemaru Park.

Despite the loss, Lady Panthers maintains their lead with eight points from four matches. Lady Bears who have a game in hand are second with six points from three matches.

Lady Bears manager and player Tina Iro said: “In round one, our first game was against Lady Panthers and we lost by two points – 8-6. We have been working hard since, knitting the team together and the win on Friday showed the unity within the team and the progress we have made as a team.”

“We have five members who are under-18 and they have gained confidence on the field. There is still a long way to go, there is still so much to learn as a team and we hope to improve and get better every week.”

Struggling with limited players, Iro laced up her boots against Lady Eels in round one. She came off the bench against the Panthers on Friday.

“Ideally, we would like to have 13 players on the field and six reserves but we don’t have the numbers, all the clubs are experiencing the same problem so I decided to take the field as well coming off the bench against the Eels. They (Eels) are a strong side with young and talented players, they are the ones to watch out for.”

Lady Panthers assistant coach Edwin Exham said errors in the second spell let them down against the Bears.

“The game plan was working in the first half, then went out of the door in the second, to many forced errors putting us on back to back defense,” Exham said.

“We were playing against ourselves in the second half. But it also points out how much you got to want it. Bears capitalised on our mistakes, putting them ahead in the second half.

“I’m glad that the game is out of the way now, they (the players) don’t need to worry about first place pressure.”

Lady Panthers skipper Rima Browne said: “We knew Arorangi would be dominant both in attack and defense so used the week to fine tune our structure and game plan.”

“Unfortunately we were unable to execute this well and the Bears were left to run rampant. Lots of learning to take away from the game which we are thankful for as we near semis. Back to the drawing board for us.”

Meanwhile the men’s clash was a tough encounter, both teams tried to gain dominance early in the opening half but struggled with their defensive plays.

The Bears were first to strike to lead 6-0, much to the delight of the home fans.

The Panthers bounced back to level the score 6-6 before the Bears capitalised on their opportunities to lead 16-6 at the break.

After a very entertaining first half, the Bears continued their rampaging run with another try to extend their lead to 22-6.

Sensing defeat, the visitors regrouped to mount a comeback but fell short, going down 18-22.

Iro said they brought in three of their homegrown players who are now based in Australia – Andre Iro, James Strickland and Mataroa Maui – for the Panthers match.

“The three players are born and brought up with the club and we followed proper procedure in bringing them over, we secured Andre and James’ release from their clubs and Mataroa plays rugby union so we didn’t have to get a release letter for him,” she said.

“They have gone back and we are not sure whether they will be available for any other matches. As per the rule they have to play a match in order to feature in the finals and they have fulfilled that.

“I think it’s a huge relief for the Bears to be back in the competition with this big win and it will surely boost the morale and the confidence of the players.”

In the other premier men’s clash, Avatiu Nikao Eels thumped Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles 68-10. The side led 40-0 at the break.