In the much-anticipated The Bond Store match of the week, defending champions Avatiu Nikao Eels and emerging giants Tupapa Panthers will go head-to-head at The Swamp in Avatiu.
Both teams are unbeaten so far in the weekly competition. Eels and Panthers have played four matches each, winning three and drawing one.
The winner of today’s match will not only walk away with bragging rights, but will also be top of the points table heading into the remaining half of the competition.
And the Panthers know that well. They hope to make the most of this opportunity and surge ahead in their bid to finally win the rugby union trophy.
“This is obviously an important match for both teams. The winner will lead the points table and I think that’s the biggest incentive that is there for this match,” Panthers coach Andrew Iroa said.
“We have built momentum and we don’t want to lose that easily. They (the Eels) are thinking the same, so this will be an interesting battle.”
The Panthers, after a slow start to the season, have moved up a notch with wins over former champions Takuvaine Reds, Arorangi Cowboys and Titikaveka Bulls.
Their massive win against the Bulls last week is testament to their commitment to the 2017 Rarotonga Club XVs competition.
Panthers have a speedy backline spearheaded by their Fijian imports and a mobile forward pack orchestrated by the likes of Davey Mato, Tupou Faireka and James Kora.
The Eels, who started off their season with a draw against the Reds, have managed to record wins against the Cowboys, Bulls and Ngatangiia/Matavera Dragons.
The team with its threatening backline led by the likes of Samu Alafua, Tua Ravula and John Penu and forwards guided by veteran Clive Nicholas and Li Ponini are equally intimidating.
Eels tend to start late in the match but finish strongly while the Panthers get right into the action from the opening whistle to get the points on the board.
“It will all come down to the team which is hungrier for the win,” Iroa said.
“We just need to minimise our mistakes and maintain our structure. I have been trying to point out to the boys that we need to put into action what we practice during the training.
“It might not come out right at the first attempt but we can learn from it and become better.”
In the other Senior A matches kicking off at 4pm today, the Reds will host the Bulls at the Happy Valley while the Dragons will take on the Cowboys at Ngatangiia Field.
Avatiu Field – The Bond Store - Game of the Week – Avatiu/Nikao Eels-Tupapa Panthers – 4pm Senior A (Refs: Simiona Teiotu, Assist Ref: Koa Kopu/William Taripo); Takuvaine Field: Takuvaine Reds-Titikaveka Bulls –3pm Senior B (Refs: Abel Masters, Assist Refs. Club Official), 4pm Senior A (Refs: Junior Takairangi, Assist Refs. Abel Masters/Dawn Crummer); Ngatangiia Field: Ngatangiia/Matavera Dragons-Arorangi Cowboys – 1pm U11 (Refs: Club Official’s), 1.50pm U13 (Refs: Club Officials), 2.50pm Under 19 (Ref: Paul Allsworth, Assist Ref: Club Officials), 4pm Senior A (Refs: Tua Ngaputa, Assist Ref: Paul Peyroux/Paul Allsworth)