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League final bound to be a cracker

Saturday 13 May 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Sports, Triathlon


League final bound to be a cracker
Tupapa Panthers’ Feleti Iona, left, and Arorangi Bears skipper Basil Matapo pose with the premier men’s trophy at Muri Beach on Thursday. Photo: RASHNEEL KUMAR / 23051266

When defending champions Tupapa Panthers and Arorangi Bears meet in the Cook Islands Rugby League 13s competition final this afternoon, one thing is guaranteed – an entertaining clash, one not to be missed.

The Bears will be hoping for a fairytale end to their superb run in round two of the domestic rugby league competition this afternoon at Nukupure Park in Ngatangiia.

The Bobby Hansen-coached side, after a mixed round one, finished unbeaten in round two including wins against giants Panthers and Avatiu Nikao Eels (twice).

They face the Panthers again this afternoon in what is expected to be an exciting clash between the two forward packs and a tactical battle between their halves.

Bears skipper Basil Matapo said they had a challenging journey, adding the brotherhood in the club helped them come this far.

Matapo hailed his players for stepping up to the challenge.

“Bobby (Hansen) has shaped us well this season. Coming from the few grand finals that he has played in and has also coached he has certainly brought that experience and the boys are listening to him. He has made us enjoy rugby league.

“We are excited about this match and call all our supporters to come down and support us in the finals.”

Tupapa Panthers’ Feleti Iona said they had a slow start to the season with a loss in their opening match but gave credit to the players for stepping up and improving every week.

Iona said in round two they were a much better side and apart from the close loss to the Bears, they were happy with the progress they have made after their first loss.

He said a week break also gave them a chance to work on their weak links and recover before the big match today.

“We are 110 per cent ready for this match, we will give everything in this last challenge,” Iona said.

“We call all our fans and families to come down to Ngatangiia and support our boys, it’s going to be a good game.”

Former Cook Islands and New Zealand Warriors rep Meti Noovao said both forward packs will be looking for their halves to dictate play in this crucial match.

“It will basically come down to the halves, who is able to mastermind the win and obviously both teams got a strong big forward pack so definitely there will be a brutal contest upfront. They will just be going at against each other,” Noovao said.

“The Panthers forwards are well drilled and experienced and the Bears are young, strong and well-disciplined so it will be an interesting contest.

“Discipline will be key and how the teams utilise their benches.

“It will be a highly entertaining game and hopefully the match officials allow the players to express themselves and showcase their talent.”

The premier men’s final will kick off at 4pm. At 12pm the U14s final will be held between the Bears and the Sea Eagles followed by the Eels versus Panthers U16s clash at 1pm and U19 clash between the Bears and the Eels at 2.20pm.