Tupapa Panthers will host Avatiu Eels today in an epic battle for the top spot in the Raro Cars Rugby League competition.
The round four feature premier match between the two undefeated teams will be held at Victoria Park, starting at 4.30pm.
The Panthers and the Eels have won both their previous two matches this season.
The Darren Piri-coached side thumped Titikaveka Bulldogs and Arorangi Bears 52-26 and 44-18, respectively, to lead the competition.
The second placed Eels recorded two close wins – 26-23 win against the Bears in their first match before a hard fought 22-16 win against defending champions Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles last weekend.
Darren Piri expects Eels to come out all fired up especially after an important win against the Sea Eagles, who were unbeaten from the start of the 2019 season.
“They will surely be a strong side but we have to believe in each other and play the game the way we want,” he said.
“We need to focus on little things and make sure we do them right.”
The Panthers have lost a number of key players, latest being their star goal kicker Othniel Joseph, who has left for New Zealand.
Piri said it was a major concern but he has faith in the remaining players to fill the void left by their departing reps.
The Eels who have a bulk of star players have been further boosted by the inclusion of three Papua New Guinean imports Mafu Kalas, Towari Kenake and Martin Yanda.
The trio, especially Kalas, stood out against the Sea Eagles last week after scoring two tries.
Piri said they were wary of the pacey PNG imports.
“Good on the Eels, they have brought in some pretty fast and strong players and it will be exciting to see how they fare against the Panthers,” he said.
Piri is calling on fans from both teams and other rugby league enthusiasts to turn up in numbers to witness this feature match.
In the other premier clash, Sea Eagles will host the Bears at Nukupure Park.
In the women’s battle, Town will play the Country at Victoria Park at 4pm.
Meanwhile Avatiu Eels have been warned not to use the services of suspended Teokotai “Billy Bush” Tuaivi in this year’s domestic rugby league competition.
Tuaivi was suspended for two years following an incident after the 2018 league season.
Tai Nelio, Cook Islands Rugby League competition coordinator, said Tuaivi had been witnessed giving direction and instruction to the team from the spectators’ area.
During the weekly league meeting on Monday, Nelio said the Eels through their rep and president Taoro Brown was reminded of Tuaivi’s two year suspension.
“Billy is not to officiate or involved in ‘anything’ to do with rugby league. Billy’s judiciary report and conditions was emailed to Taoro,” Nelio said.
“Taoro will talk to Billy and also advised the Eels coach is Walter Tangata.”
Tangata, the former national rugby union coach, was listed as the Eels coach for their first match. Against the Sea Eagles last week, Taoro Brown was listed as the Eels coach on the team sheet.
Nukupure Park – 12pm U10 Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears (Play half field), 12pm U12 Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears (Play half field), 12.50pm U14 Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears, 1.50pm U16 Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears, 3pm Reserves Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears, 4.30pm Premiers Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears; Victoria Park – 12.40pm U10 Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels (Play half field), U12 Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels (Play half field), 1.30pm U14 Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels, 2.30pm Reserves Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels, 4pm WOMEN Country-Town, 4.30pm Premiers Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels. Bye – Titikaveka Bulldogs