Beniasi Dakuwaqa is taking the domestic rugby union season by storm.
The Tupapa Panthers fullback, who has speed to burn, is the leading tryscorer in the Rarotonga Club 15s competition.
Regarded as the fastest player in the competition, Dakuwaqa is hoping to use his speed to extend his tally when the Panthers takes on Takitumu in round three clash at Victoria Park today.
The lanky speedster scored five tries when the two teams met in round one to help his side smash Takitumu 60-0.
Dakuwaqa scored his sixth try in the close 19-16 win against Avatiu Eels a fortnight ago. The Panthers were supposed to play Arorangi Cowboys last weekend but the match was postponed due to a bereavement in Muri – the host village.
“I’m looking forward to increasing my tally against Takitumu. I have set a personal target of scoring 12 tries this season and I’m hoping to achieve that,” said the 23-year-old Dakuwaqa.
The soft-spoken Fijian played rugby league for Titikaveka Bulldogs earlier this year before joining Tupapa for the Kumete Sports Day in June.
He clocked the fastest time at Kumete – 10.79 seconds in the blue ribbon (100 metres) race. The time, however, is far off from his personal best of 10.09 seconds.
“Speed helps me a lot. That’s one of my greatest strengths and I use every opportunity I get to get the best out of my speed,” Dakuwaqa, who used to play club rugby in Australia said.
“I prefer the fullback position because it helps me maximise on my speed strength. It gives me opportunity to study the game properly, especially detecting flaws in the opponents. When I get the ball, I know which way to run to get to the tryline.”
Against the Eels, Dakuwaqa ran almost the entire field, evading six would be tacklers, to score what many reckon the try of the season.
“My goal is to make this competition challenging, I hope other players step up and bring their best to the competition. It’s all about improving the standards.”
Ben Koteka, the Cook Islands Rugby Union development manager, had praised Dakuwaqa for enticing the competition with his speed and skills.
Backed by their star player, the unbeaten Panthers will march into today’s clash against Takitumu as favourites.
Koteka said: “Takitumu have been training hard and the onus will be on them to either defeat or reduce the margin from their previous encounter against the 2019 champion.”
Takitumu will be banking on their talented backline made up of midfielders Sailosi Nagi and Tomasi Bikaka and also utility backs Teariki Matenga Jr and Daniel Toa.
The Panthers will rely on their hardworking forward pack, led by their lively hooker John Vano, to supply quality ball to their dangerous backline.
The match will kick-off at 2.30pm.
In the feature Senior A match, archrivals Avatiu Eels and Arorangi Cowboys will battle each other at 4pm.
The Eels won 16-7 when they met in round one, thanks to the second half tries to wingers John Penu and Genesis Piri, who scored from turnover ball.
Koteka said: “Although the Cowboys forwards were able to consistently supply good go-forward ball, they were unable to execute with accuracy when these point-scoring opportunities were presented to them.”
The Cowboys loose forwards Tanire Mokoroa and Rob Heather and skillful backs James Strickland and Matt Maui are the players to look out for in today’s clash.
Mobile props Stanley Tuaivi and Toru Katuke, speedster John Penu and powerful midfielder Lai Rogorogoivalu will spearhead the Eels campaign.
Victoria Park: 11am: Under 10s,12s & 14s – Junior Quick Rip Rugby for ALL Clubs, 12 noon: Under 16s Town-Country – Rugby 10s, 12.40pm: Women’s Town-Country (Rugby 7s), 1.10pm: Under 19s Town-Country – Rugby 15s, 2.30pm: Senior A: Tupapa Panthers-Takitumu, 4pm: Senior A: Avatiu Eels-Arorangi Cowboys. Entry fee: Under 16s free. Adults: $3.