However, someone forgot to tell the Bulls that, as they upset the 2017 club champions with a spirited 23 – 20 win at Avatiu Field.
The Eels dominated at set piece time, winning the scrums and lineouts and ensuring themselves a steady supply of possession. This resulted in the Eels scoring four unconverted tries to the Bulls’ two.
However, it was the fighting spirit of the Bulls together with the goal-kicking ability of their first 5/8 Teariki Matenga Jnr which made the difference in the end.
The Eels led at halftime by 10 – 6. The second half introduction of the Eels quality bench players helped to strengthen their efforts, with tries to substitution players tight forward Tokerau Raru and halfback James Kiriaru.
But the Bulls stayed in the fight, scoring 17 second half points with two converted tries. Their first try was scored early to halfback James Tofilau. There was also a “penalty try” to their speedy left winger and then another close range penalty kicked by Matenga.
The Bulls were given plenty of “directions” and sideline support from Papa George Hosking and the team’s small but vocal band of supporters.
Best players for the Eels were busy Number 8 Tamanui Nicholas, inside centre Leki Heavala and prop Stan Tobia.
Whilst it was a team effort, the best players for the Bulls were “action man” Number 8 Eddie Qio and fellow loose forward and ex-national 7s rep Richie Connal, point scoring machine first 5/8 Teariki Matenga Jnr and rookie midfielder Tomasi Bikaka.
Meanwhile, a final quarter meltdown by the Arorangi Cowboys allowed the Tupapa Panthers to finish strongly and win their clash 48-20.
The Cowboys came within 5 points of the Panthers in the middle of the second half, but ill-discipline and handling errors spoilt their good work.
The fitter Panthers tight five laid the foundation for this win and others who played well were their new combination of halfback Othneil Joseph, first 5/8 Tave Tereapii and “Mr Consistency”, - Number 8 Thomas Toa.
Outstanding for the Cowboys were utility forward Robert Heather Jnr, barnstorming prop Daniel “Magic” Tonorio and utility back Stephen Willis.
Titikaveka Bulls: 23. Tries: James Tofilau & James Tofilau, Conversion: Teariki Matenga Jnr (2), Penalty: T Matenga (3).
Avatiu Eels: 20. Tries: Leki Heavala, Samu Alafua, Tokerau Raru and James Kiriau.