The Eels managed to qualify for this Saturday’s semi-final after beating Arorangi Bears 31-26 in a closely-contested playoff at the BCI Stadium on Saturday last week.
The Meti Noovao-coached side will take on defending champions Tupapa Panthers who lost to Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles 28-6 in the top two playoff on last Friday. The unbeaten Sea Eagles are through to next week’s grand finale.
George said the three-way battle for the Raro Cars Rugby League 2019 title would be an interesting one.
He said the Sea Eagles, Panthers and the Eels were all contenders for the title.
“I think the minute Avatiu survived in the preliminary round to make it into the top four, you know straightaway this battle will get interesting. You cannot write Avatiu off because if anything, Avatiu has been in more grand finals than any other team,” George said.
“Right now there are three teams in there and any of the three can win but realistically Ngatangiia has a better chance. They only have to play one game while Avatiu and Tupapa have two big games to play – one this Saturday and then the final next weekend.”
George said the team more determined to win will prevail in the semis this weekend.
“The Avatiu versus Tupapa match will be one of the best games this season, it will be nothing less than the grand finale. I think the team that comes with a belly full of fire and hunger to win would play the Sea Eagles in the final,” he said.
Recapping last weekend’s playoff action, Cook Islands Rugby League competition coordinator Tai Nelio said the Eels versus the Bears match was probably one of the best playoff matches they have witnessed in a long time.
“It was a hard fought match with both teams determined to win. The Bears almost caused an upset fighting back to close the score to a one-point difference 27-26 towards the end of the second half,” Nelio earlier said.
“The game went right down to the wire, for the Eels to clinch the unconverted winning try a minute out from full time. The Bears can only blame themselves with some basic mistakes of ball handling. The Eels took advantage of those errors and came away with some points.
“With everyone thinking the Eels were going to run away with the game by a big score, it wasn’t to be. The Bears stayed in the game and scored some fantastic tries but fell short at the end.”
Friday – U16 Arorangi Bears 30 Titikaveka Bulldogs 0, Premiers Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles 28 Tupapa Panthers 6; Saturday – U9/11 Tupapa Panthers 4 Nga/Matavera Sea Eagles 1, U9/11 Arorangi Bears 3 Avatiu Eels 1, U13 Tupapa Panthers 24 Nga/Matavera Sea Eagles 16, U13 Arorangi Bears 28 Avatiu Eels 0, U16 Tupapa Panthers 30 Nga/Matavera Sea Eagles 6, Reserves Avatiu Eels 14 Nga/Matavera Sea Eagles 20, Premiers Arorangi Bears 26 Avatiu Eels 31