After their first loss of the season to Titikaveka Bulldogs 4-22 last week, the Tupapa Panthers will be hoping to bounce back against the unbeaten Eels at Victoria Park on Saturday.
Eels survived a major scare after the side were taken to the wire in a slender 30-26 win against the Arorangi Bears at The Swamp last week.
Cook Islands Rugby League Association competition coordinator Taua Benioni said the Panthers versus Eels match would be an intense affair.
“At Victoria Park, the two top teams are having it out to even things up after their first encounter in the first round ended up in a draw,” Benioni said.
“Last week both teams got a stern warning from their oppositions, with Panthers losing against Bulldogs and the Eels only managing to hold out the Bears with a late try.”
In the other premier matches, Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles will be hosting Aitutaki Sharks at Nukupure Park on Friday, while the Bulldogs will take on TKV Warriors at Teimurimotia Park on Saturday.
The Sea Eagles, who were on a bye last week, will be looking for a good win against the Sharks so they can improve their chances of a top-four finish.
Bulldogs seem to have found their rhythm after the win against the Panthers and the side will be hoping to continue with their winning form to maintain their third spot in the competition.
“The battle for top four is still on, especially for third and fourth,” Benioni said.
“Bulldogs and Sea Eagles should come out even winners but Sea Eagles may have a tough time now that Sharks have chalked up their first win against the Warriors after winning by default in the first round.”
Meanwhile, Eels retain their top spot on the points table with 19 points, followed by the Panthers on 16.
Defending champions Bulldogs are in third spot with 10 points, followed by the Sea Eagles (9), Bears (8), Sharks (4) and the Warriors at the bottom of the table without a point. - RK
Today at Titikaveka: 5pm U19s, Bulldogs v Sea Eagles.
Saturday at Nukupure Park: 5pm Premiers, Sea Eagles v Sharks.
Saturday at Teimurimotia Park: 3pm Premier Reserves, Bulldogs v Warriors; 4.30pm Premiers.
Saturday at Victoria Park: 11am Junior Development, Panthers v Eels; 3pm Premier Reserves, 4.30pm Premiers. Arorangi Bears are on a bye.