After scoring a hat-trick in the opening round win against Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles, the Bears’ fullback pulled off another spectacular feat over the weekend to help his side level with defending champions Titikaveka Bulldogs 16-all in the round-two feature clash.
The intense battle at a waterlogged Teimurimotia Park on Saturday had the Bulldogs in front until the final quarter of the match, when Raphael Simiona scored a try in the corner.
After a relentless drive for the tryline, the Bears managed to sneak in through Simiona, who was beautifully set up by an impressive Patella Tou, resulting in a 16-14 scoreline in favour of the host.
The daunting task of taking the extras and levelling the match from an acute angle rested on Taoro’s shoulders.
In what was easily the moment of the match, the teenager stepped up and calmly slotted the ball, which dipped onto the crossbar and dribbled behind the post to the delight of the fans.
With the match levelled 16-all, the intensity went a notch up, with the Bears putting everything on the line to get the winner.
The Bulldogs seemed lethargic but they managed to hold on and escape with the 16-all draw in the end.
The hosts made a perfect start to the much-anticipated match after lanky Sai Nagi’s set up saw Napolioni Ragona running almost the length of the field to score the opening try for an early 6-0 lead.
Bulldogs doubled their advantage after James Tofilau barged his way through for a second try to extend their lead to 12-0.
The Bears, who were riddled with handling errors and also gave away some penalties, managed to regroup and score a try through Tou before Bulldogs winger Ragona got his second try in what some deemed a controversial call from the man in the middle.
Gas man Agostine Heather, who was one of Bears’ top performers alongside Francis Smith and Tou, scored his team’s second try to ensure they remained within fighting distance before the break. Bulldogs led 16-10 at halftime.
Having spent much of the opening spell defending, the Bears then turned on the attack and made some good yards, led by loose forward Andre Iro.
They created some opportunities but some tough defending from the Bulldogs kept them at bay.
Bulldogs also had some chances but poor execution saw the opportunities they created lead nowhere.
Simiona’s try and Taoro’s brilliant conversion increased the tempo of the match but that was not enough to change the 16-all scoreline.
In the reserve-grade match which was played earlier, the Pare Rongokea-coached Bears defeated Bulldogs 38-26. Bears also won the U19 match against the Bulldogs on Friday with a scoreline of 28-26.
In the other premier clash on Saturday, Tupapa Panthers thumped the Sea Eagles 56-6.
The postponed TKV Warriors versus the Avatiu Eels match will be held at 5pm today at the Happy Valley Field.