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Comeback kings: Defending champions Panthers stun Eels to book final spot

Monday 1 May 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in League, Sports


Comeback kings: Defending champions Panthers stun Eels to book final spot
Tupapa Panthers’ Oswell Tunupopo dives over for a try against Avatiu Nikao Eels at Aretere Park on Saturday. Picture: MELINA ETCHES/23042915

Defending champions Tupapa Panthers are through to the premier men’s final after a hard-fought win against Avatiu Nikao Eels in the Cook Islands Rugby League 13s competition playoff at Aretere Park on Saturday.

The Eels got off to an impressive start, racing to a 28-0 lead stunning the visitors with their elusive play in the opening spell. The Panthers managed to score a try but the Eels maintained a healthy 28-6 lead at the break.

In the second spell, the Panthers made a remarkable comeback scoring consecutive tries to level the match 28-all before taking the lead 32-28.

The Eels, with a player sinbinned for ill-discipline, tried hard but couldn’t overpower the Panthers who won the pulsating match 36-34.

Despite the loss, the Eels have another chance to make the grand finale when they play Arorangi Bears in the semi-final this weekend.

The Bears defeated Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles 36-8 in the third-place playoff on Saturday. They led 14-0 at the break.

In the women’s division, Lady Bears have booked their place in the final after beating Lady Panthers 28-22 in extra time play on Thursday while Lady Eels thumped defending champions Lady Bulldogs 44-4 in the third-place playoff on Friday.

Lady Eels will play Lady Panthers in the semi-final this week.