Joseph Kaipo of the Tahunanui Tigers makes a burst through the Stoke Cobras’ defence, during Saturday’s semi-final win. Photo: Evan Barnes/Shuttersport.

Tigers reach league final

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The Richmond Rabbits are back in the TRL final for the third year in a row, but for the first time it’s the Tahunanui Tigers they will have to get past in the decider.

Having beaten the Stoke Cobras twice in the past two rugby league finals, the Rabbits now face a spirited Tigers team who clawed their way past the Cobras 26-22 in the semi-final on Saturday.

Tigers chairman Paul Lafotanoa says it’s a special achievement for the club to be back in the final, and he believes they have every chance to get up over the Rabbits who saw off the Victory Phoenix Vikings 32-14 in the other semi-final. “I think we’ve got every chance. The Rabbits are the form team, they’re unbeaten this year, but they’ve had a couple of close calls and I believe they’re beatable,” he says. “The Tigers will have to step up another level from their game against Stoke.”

The only mark against Richmond’s perfect record is a round-robin draw with the Cobras and their captain Hoani Takao is well aware that they will go into the game as the favourites. “I’d be lying if I said we didn’t feel any pressure. While we know the rest of the season doesn’t matter now that we’re in the finals, we’re confident we can produce a good quality game and we just need to string it all together on the day,” he says.

Hoani believes the Tigers have been the toughest opponent they faced in the round-robin. “We played the Cobras in the past two finals so it shows the strength in the rugby league locally to have another team in the final. We’re definitely preparing for a tough battle, that’s for sure.”

The teams will clash at Trafalgar Park this Saturday at 2:30pm. Entry is by gold coin donation and the final is an alcohol and smoke free event.