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Top of the table clash

Saturday 22 July 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Rugby Union, Sports


Top of the table clash
Avatiu Nikao Eels is wary of Tupapa Panthers’ “heavy” forward, pictured against Titikaveka Bulldogs in the earlier round, when the two teams meet this afternoon at 4pm. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 23070807 / 23070808

The undefeated Tupapa Panthers and Avatiu Nikao Eels will battle in round three of the Rarotonga Club 15s competition this afternoon at Nukupure Park in Ngatangaiia.

Defending champions Eels and the Panthers have enjoyed a good start in the domestic rugby union season with wins over Titikaveka Bulldogs and Arorangi Bears in the opening two rounds.

This afternoon the arch-rivals will face each other to determine the top side in the competition.

Panthers assistant coach Thomas Toa will guide the team in absence of head coach Darren Piri who is away overseas.

Toa said the attendance during their training this week was overwhelming.

He said they have been struggling with numbers in the past two matches with only a player on the bench in the hard fought 12-11 win against the Bears last week.

“I think so far, we had the most numbers turning up for training this week. It shows the commitment of players ahead of a big game like this,” Toa said.

“The morale in the team is building up and everyone is looking forward to this match.

“They (Eels) have a good team and they are our main competition but I think we’re ready for this match.”

The Panthers are wary of the Eels forward pack as well as their mercurial first five-eight Viiga Reupena.

Toa said Reupena had a massive impact on the Eels “and he’s always a bonus for any team that he plays for”.

“He’s a great player but we want to focus more on our strengths and our game rather than theirs.”

Eels coach Clive Nicholas said today’s match will be a tough one “obviously given Tupapa has got the biggest forward pack. This will be a good test for our players”.

“Our training hasn’t been flash, we got boys who have been struck by illnesses (flu) but yesterday (Thursday) was a good turnout,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas says the Panthers’ strength lies in their “free-flowing game” orchestrated by their Fijian players.

He is hoping to counter their attack with a strong defensive play and put pressure on the Panthers to keep their unbeaten run alive.

“The rugby union season has been cut short, we have only one round of games before the knockouts next week so it’s make it or break it time for the teams.”

Both coaches are asking fans to come out in numbers to support their respective teams.

Meanwhile the Bears were held by the Bulldogs 16-all last night at Nukupure Park.


11.55am Opening prayer – All Clubs – Junior Development Ethos: “Development first & competition later”; 12 noon U13 GIRLS/U9 Boys – Quick Rip All Clubs Junior Development – Quick Rip non-contact, participation for all including Girls; 12 noon U13 Boys – Rugby 15s ALL Clubs Junior Development “Train & Play” - Rugby 15s; 2pm U19 Men Avatiu Eels-Arorangi Bears; 3.30pm Women’s 10s Lady Bears vs Lady Panthers/TKV Reds; 4pm Premier Men Avatiu Eels vs Tupapa Panthers.