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Panthers survive late Eels rally

Monday 24 July 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Rugby Union, Sports


Panthers survive late Eels rally
Tupapa Panthers and Avatiu Nikao Eels clashed in week three of Rarotonga Club 15s competition at Nukupure Park in Ngatangiia on Saturday. The Panthers won 20-19. MELINA ETCHES/23072309

Tupapa Panthers have taken the lead in the Rarotonga Club 15s competition after a slender 20-19 win over Avatiu Nikao Eels on Saturday at Nukupure Park in Ngatangiia.

The Eels left it too late against the Panthers in the top of the table clash over the weekend.

With 12 minutes to go, the Panthers were leading comfortably by 20 points to nil.

Then within a seven-minute period the Eels struck back by scoring 19 unanswered points with three tries and two conversions. 

At the 80th minute of this match and with the fulltime hooter sounded the Eels were awarded a kickable 35 metre penalty goal, but unfortunately their normally reliable Eels first 5/8 Viiga Reupena was unable to convert this into points.

The Panthers who led at halftime by 10-0 remain the only unbeaten team in the competition.

The best player for the Eels were their forwards Lua Faafoi Faosi, loose forward Jone Rainima and elusive left winger Nathan Nabou and classy first 5/8 Reupena. 

For the Panthers, their busy young front rower Olive Willie and lock Kana Nga, abrasive midfielder Rudi Sita and ex-Cook Islands 15s player and fullback Jamien Iroa were standouts.   

In the other premier grade match held on Friday at Nukupure Park, Titikaveka Bulldogs shocked Arorangi Bears with a 16-all scoreline.

A penalty goal kicked after the fulltime hooter had sounded by the Bears first 5/8 Basil Matapo was sufficient for the highly favoured Bears to draw this match against their country-cousins, the much-improved Bulldogs team.

For the Bears, their hardworking forwards lock Suli Koliloa and front rower Ox Moananu and exciting utility back Taio Taio, who tried his best to ignite the Bears attack, stood out.

The best players for the Bulldogs were midfielders Mark Tuaati and Timothy Tangirere and busy lock Rakon Marsters.   

The halftime score was 8-all.

In the premier Women’s 10s match held on Saturday, Tupapa Panthers defeated Arorangi Bears 15-0.

The Panthers led 5-0 at halftime with a try to their hard running forward June Willie.

In the second half the Panthers scored two more tries to their speedy utility backs Soko Dikoinakua and Seta Batiratu to seal the 15-0 win.   

The Bears tried hard to remain in the contest and their best players were Stephanie Nooroa and Samantha Lockington.


Tupapa Panthers: 20 (Tries: Lua Tua, Kana Nga & Rudi Sita   Conv: Jamien Iroa. Pen: Daniel Toa) Avatiu Eels: 19 (Tries: Lua Faafoi Faosi, Ryan Daniel & Tama Nicholas. Conv: Viiga Ruepena [2])

Titikaveka Bulldogs: 16 (Tries:  Rakon Marsters & Bambridge Valoa. Pen: Timothy Tangirere [2]) Arorangi Bears: 16 (Tries: Suli Koliloa & Nelson Ngaiorae. Pen: Basil Matapo [2]). This week’s matches will be played at Victoria Park in Tupapa.