Rennell out Bellona through

Bellona Team Captain Leslie Puia kicks for touch as Makira player Duddley Ratu closes in during their Solrice Inter- Islands 15s challenge semi final match yesterday. Bellona won...Photo Taromane Martin.
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Subi eliminates defending champs


By Taromane Martin

Bellona Team Captain Leslie Puia kicks for touch as Makira player Duddley Ratu closes in during their Solrice Inter-
Islands 15s challenge semi final match yesterday. Bellona won…Photo Taromane Martin.

DEFENDING Inter-Islands rugby 15s champion’s Rennell Islands are out of the title race after they were defeated 17-15 by Malaita Subi yesterday.

The match had to be called off with a minute remaining to play after Rennell players verbally abused and threatened match referee Augustine Mafuara after Subi stole the lead through a penalty conversion.

With time running out and Subi leading by three points, Rennell players lost their cool after Mafuara showed a Rennell player the yellow card for infringement on the ruck.

Rennell players and managements were furious and refused to finish that game abandoning the game leaving Malaita Subi securing their spot for the grand final this Saturday.

Set to meet Malaita Subi in the grand final this Saturday at the Town Ground rugby stadium is Bellona rugby team who eliminated Makira in the second semifinal match yesterday.

Mike Nasiu grabbed the first try for Bellona after Dickson Aria gave Makira a three point lead early in the match.

Roman Tongaka and Victor Sau’eha scored a try each but saw the conversion attempts by Leslie Puia off target to see Bellona leading 15-3 the break.

Makira came back strong in the second half, dominating ball possession with the presence of their huge forwards.

It paid off in the 52nd minute, Johnson Siapu pulling a try back for Makira, Dudley Ratu adding extra two to put Makira back in the game.

Bellona was reduced to 14 men after Fijian match referee James Bolambiu showed Rennell’s Cameron Suamoana the red card for a dangerous tackle.

Mike Tuhaika extended Bellona’s lead to 20-10 with another try before competition leading try scorer Larvnester Puia added another try to his tally to finish the game 27-10.

“The performance today was ok. I’m happy with the boys because they managed to execute our game plan and moves in the game which is great,” Bellona Coach Brian Pongatapu said.

“Our game plan was 70% on. We worked really hard on our defense and discipline which are priorities areas we are working on at the moment.

“I feel Bellona will have a good game on Saturday and I’m also appealing to spectators and players we have to play rugby because it is only a sport and we need a good outcome for the final.

“After winning the first ever Inter-Islands rugby title. This is our second time back in the finals after being eliminated in the second and third Inter-Islands, so yes very much look forward for the grand final match,” he said.

Makira Head Coach Philip Campbell though disappointed gave credit for his boys saying they look forward to meet Rennell in the third and fourth position playoffs.

“Our game plan was set but obviously it did not go to plan. We made one too many areas today which favored Bellona. Congratulations to them for the win,” Coach Campbell said.

“For Team Makira looking at the players on the field their performance is consistent. Our performance at the moment is average coming through our pool games. It improved in the semi but unfortunately it was not enough to take us through for the grand finals.

“Rennell is a competitive side. Even though they defeated us in the pool games, coming to the play offs certainly things will be a lot different.

For now we look forward for the third and fourth position playoffs on Saturday. We will regroup, work on our injuries and recovery and then we will be ready for Rennell on Saturday,” Campbell said.