Host Tupapa Panthers and Ngatangiia Sea Eagles will go head to-head in the premier match of round four at 5pm in search for the vital win to remain in the race for the domestic rugby league title.
Sea Eagles after a disappointing 10-52 loss to points table leaders Titikaveka Bulldogs in the opening round of the competition, managed to bounce back with a slender 18-12 win over Aitutaki Sharks last week.
Panthers, on the other hand, almost spoiled defending champions Avatiu Nikao Eels campaign after narrowly losing 26-28 but the side bounced back to trounce Takuvaine Warriors in the second round competition two weeks ago.
The team was on a bye last week, but coach Darren Piri said the break had done little to help the side prepare for today’s match.
“It’s a very important match. All the teams are gunning to get into the top four and we are hoping for the same.
“But it’s still early in the competition and teams are still trying to gauge each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Sea Eagles like us have a lot of young players who are in their development phase, so it will be an exciting battle.”
Panthers will be led by the hard hitting second row Semisi Tora, who represented the Fiji Bati side at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.
Tora will be supported by the likes of Teina Savage, Twin Tiro, Maines Rongo and speedy winger Amini Tuimada.
The Panthers, from their earlier two matches, have emerged as the giantkillers in the competition.
The mixture of young and experienced players created wonders in the opening match but they lacked luck and went down fighting to the Eels in a thrilling encounter.
Match fitness will be vital for the side as two-week break may have added the some cobwebs to the team’s structure and combination.
The Sea Eagles’ resilience was outstanding against the Sharks last week and the side will need that in today’s fixture to gain much-needed match points.
The team also has some hard-hitting forwards and a set of speedy backline led gasman Joshua Maui.
“It will be a great day of rugby league starting from 11.30am with the under-12s. I request all the fans and even those who are not supporting the either teams to come down and enjoy these matches and support the age group teams,” Piri said.
In the other premier match, Warriors will host the Eels at the Happy Valley at 5pm.