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Bears dedicate 13s win to village and supporters

Tuesday 16 May 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Rugby league, Sports

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Bears dedicate 13s win to village and supporters
Arorangi Bears’ Taio Taio gets tackled by Tupapa Panthers in the final of the 2023 Rugby Leagues 13s Competition. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/ 23051418

Cook Islands Rugby League 13s premier men’s champions, Arorangi Bear have paid tribute to their village and supporters for backing them through the 2023 season.

The Bears premier men’s side defeated defending champions Tupapa Panthers 28 -23 in the grand finale at Nukupure Park in Ngatangiia on Saturday. The win on Saturday ended Bears’ 20-year drought in domestic rugby league competition.

Skipper Basil Matapo, who won the player of the match award, said he was proud to represent Arorangi Bears.

“We are really proud to represent the people of our village, we thank them for their efforts and for those who have passed on … this is for them.”

Matapo said a strong pep talk from their coach Bobby Hansen set the platform for their second half performance.

“Coach told the players to hold on to the ball, go back to what we love – tucking the ball under our arms and running hard,” he said.

“We thank everyone who supported us, without them we would not be here. The trophy is for you guys.”

Tupapa Panthers’ Feleti Iona, who scored twice in the second spell, congratulated the Bears for their win saying at the end of the day, “there is only one winner”.

Iona said while he appreciated his players for their effort and playing hard in the final, they lost too many chances and they did not finish the game the way they wanted.

“We lost so much opportunities. So proud of the boys though and they gave Arorangi Bears a good challenge.

“Congratulations to Arorangi, it has been a long time and thanks to all the fans who came to support the Panthers, we appreciate it.”

Former Cook Islands and New Zealand Warriors rep Meti Noovao was impressed with the performance from both sides saying it could have been anyone’s game.

“But the Bears totally deserved the win. Tupapa had couple of opportunities to square the game but they lacked that execution and Bears seemed more hungry as they defended so well,” Noovao said.

“Well done to both sides, could have gone either way and Bears did well with a player down (sinbin) and hats off to their coaching staff led by Bobby for moulding them into such a great team.

“The game kept me on the edge of my seat and I wasn’t even sitting. It was a game worthy of a final.”