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Top four battle in league

Saturday 29 April 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Rugby league, Sports

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Top four battle in league
In a repeat of last week’s match, Arorangi Bears will take on Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles in a do or die encounter at Aretere Park in Avatiu at 4.30pm. Picture: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/ 23042401

Close and exciting battles are expected in the Cook Islands Rugby League 13s competition playoffs when the top four premier men’s teams clash at Aretere Park in Avatiu this afternoon.

In the 1st/2nd place playoff, table toppers Avatiu Nikao Eels will face defending champions Tupapa Panthers at 3pm before the do or die clash between Arorangi Bears and Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles at 4.30pm.

The winner from the first match heads straight into the final while the losing team will play the winner of the Bears versus the Sea Eagles clash in next weekend’s semi-final.

The Eels and the Panthers have played twice this season and share a win each with the Eels winning in round one 38-8 and the Panthers in round two 34-12.

Eels coach Clive Nicholas said their preparation for the third encounter with the Panthers have been good.

Nicholas said the team has been bolstered with the return of their vice-captain Adyn Kapi from a four-week suspension and key player Ioane Moore.

“Adyn was also carrying injury so this four-week suspension gave him an opportunity to recover and he’s fit now,” Nicholas said.

“Ioane played a key role in our 7s and 9s campaigns. He also played against the Panthers in our first match this season and left a week before our round two match which affected our game structure against the Panthers. It is good to have him back.”

Nicholas said the round two losses to the Panthers and the Bears (36-26) was a good wake up call for his players.

“It was timely, we have been riding high for too long and I think we got a little bit complacent. This was evident in our training where we hardly had full squad turning up for training not like the Avatiu of old where there would be full squad and extras at training every day.

“The onus is ultimately on the senior players, the captain and the vice-captain to rally the rest of the troops because I’m not there playing with them.”

Nicholas said the match against the Panthers will be a tough one.

“We have learnt the lessons from our last loss and we have been working on them so we can tell only after the game (today) whether it had worked or not.”

Efforts to get comments from the Panthers, Bears and the Sea Eagles coaches proved futile after calls made to them went answered.

Former Cook Islands rep Meti Noovao, who coached Titikaveka Bulldogs in the domestic competition, said the results would come down to the team playing the “smartest football on the day”.

“I think the Bears had an incredible journey in round two and hats off to Bobby Hansen and their coaching staff, they have a good coaching environment,” Noovao said.

“Semis is a different kettle of fish and mental preparation plays a major part in this stage of the competition. They have done the physical work to reach this far, now it’s down to the mental preparation and how they follow up the game plan, trusting their players and processes.”

Fixtures

10am Junior Development, 11.30am U14 Sea Eagles-Bears, 12.30pm U14 Eels-Panthers, 1.30pm U19 Eels-Bears, Premier Men: 3pm 1st/2nd place playoff Eels-Panthers, 4.30pm 3rd/4th Bears-Sea Eagles. Entry: $3.