Still unbeaten through eight weeks, Tupapa have proven their championship mentality all season, as they have dominated the weaker opponents and survived against tougher rivals.
They even survived the classic trap game that all successful teams fall into when they narrowly beat the Takuvaine Reds 33-31, thanks to a last-minute penalty from Othneil Joseph.
Last week’s match did not reflect, on the scoreboard at least, the tough competition that they faced from the Arorangi Cowboys in their 23-11 win.
Sorely missing the presence of star forward James Kora, Tupapa battled against the tough Arorangi pack, although ultimately their spectacular backline was the difference.
Tupapa will again need to rely on the contributions of game-breakers Jovilisi Naqitawa and Raikave Mocedike, as well as dynamic fullback Rangi Piri to put some points on the board.
The hosting Titikaveka Bulls are coming off a tough loss to Avatiu Nikao Eels 43-23, although they should be encouraged by their contribution on the scoreboard against a tough defence.
They will be aware of the underdog status, so they might be able to catch the Panthers napping early if the visitors think that they can stroll in and take an easy win.
If they saw last week’s game against the Cowboys, they would have seen that once players like Naqitawa and Piri get the ball in space and are allowed to create for themselves or others, they are unstoppable.
But when the Panthers’ momentum was halted, and they tried to play wide, often forwards would be in the centres and out of position, which would lead to unforced mistakes.
The onus will be on the Bulls’ midfielders to make their tackles away from the ruck area in space, a tough ask for any team, but especially against the most dangerous team in the competition.
Up at the Swamp, the Avatiu/Nikao Eels will look to continue to put the heat on the Panthers as they square off against the Ngatangiia/Matavera Dragons.
Once again the Eels asserted their championship credentials in their win last week, although they must be careful not look ahead to next week’s face-off against arch-rivals Panthers.
The Dragons lost again last week to the Takuvaine Reds 52-23, but they could be in for a real shot if the Eels get complacent.
With the Eels having one of the more powerful midfield combinations in the competition, look for Dragons centre Mark Tuaati and partner Fale Sooailo to show they deserve to mentioned among the best.
Finally, Arorangi are home for the third straight week as they host the Reds coming off their big win.
The past few weeks have shown the quality of both teams, and although they have both lost two of their last three games, they have always excelled in areas that don’t show up on the scoreboard.
With a forward pack that has dominated at home, the Reds may struggle to deal with their physicality, and the winner of this match could go a long way to showing who deserves a place in the finals come September.
Saturday 26th August 2017
Venue : Avatiu Field
Avatiu /Nikao Eels vs. Ngatangiia / Matavera Dragons
12noon: 6 – 12yrs: “Get into Rugby” Programme, 01.45pm: U13 (referees: club officials),
02.40pm: U19(referee: William Taripo, assistant referee: club officials - hosting & visiting), 04.00pm: Senior A (referee: Tua Ngaputa, assistant referee Paul Peyroux / Dawn Crummer).
Venue : Arorangi Field
Arorangi Cowboys vs. Takuvaine Reds
01.00pm: U11 (referee: club officials), 01.45pm: U13 (referee: club officials), 2.40pm: U19 (referee: Peter Godfrey, assistant referee: club officials - hosting & visiting), 04.00pm: Senior A (referee: Junior Takairangi, assistant referee: Paul Allsworth / Peter Godfrey)
Venue : Titikaveka Field - The Bond Store - Game of the week
Titikaveka Bulls vs. Tupapa Panthers
04.00pm : Senior A (referee: Pare Rongokea, assistant referee: Simiona Teiotu and Ben Koteka).