The Senior A showdown will be nothing short of a spectacle as both teams are expected to fight tooth and nail to claim the ultimate prize at The Swamp.
The two teams have met three times this season, with the defending champions Eels losing all the three matches.
The spirited Panthers outfit have proved a force to reckon with after downing the experienced Eels 23-18, 13-10 and 22-14 in their previous meetings in the 2017 competition.
All three matches were a close affair, but the undefeated Panthers showed they have the knack of staying composed in the crucial moments of the match and edging away unscathed with the win.
The Eels are a team of super stars, with plenty of “X-factor.” However they have been unable to piece these stars all together, especially in the close battles.
Their ill-discipline has stood like a sore thumb. They have big, strong mobile forwards such as prop Stan Tuaivi and lock Toks Raru, speed to burn in right winger Samu Alafua who is probably the quickest man on the island and a good mix of skill and power in midfielders Tua Ravula and Lai Rogorogoivalu.
However, their inability to combine well and play together as a unit for the full 80 minutes has cost them dearly.
The key to the Panthers’ success so far this season has been their ability, skill set, fitness and discipline.
They have managed to combine them to perfection to gain some superb wins this season.
The ability of their young forward pack, led by frontrowers KC Kora, John Vano and Davey Mato, complemented by their halves Othneil Joseph and Jamian Iroa, has helped marshall the team in the competition.
Regardless of the talent on the field, it’s the discipline of the players that will ultimately matter and probably determine the outcome this afternoon.
The Andrew Iroa-coached Panthers last won the competition in 2009.
The grand final will kick off at 4pm after the U19 showdown between the Eels and Arorangi Cowboys which starts at 2.15pm.
Avatiu Eels: Stan Tuaivi, Paki Ngaoire-Mani, Toru Katuke, Louis Nicholas, Tokerau Raru, Clive Nicholas, Lee Ponini (Capt.), Totoa Tuaia, Teokotai Tuaivi, Leki Heavula, Sirla Pera, Lai Rogorogoivalu, Tua Ravula, Samu Alafua, John Penu, Junior Kiriau, Jerry Labaibure, Tamanui Nicholas, Duane Gukisuva, Alex Olah, Daniel Ahau.
Tupapa Panthers: KC Kora, John Vano, Davey Mato, Seruvi Ralulu Jnr, Okirua Naea, Filipo Schmidt, Thomas Toa(Capt.), Othneil Joseph, Jamian Iroa, Kave Mocedike, Seruvi Raululu Snr, Jovilisi Naqitawa, Tyronne Marurai, Rangi Piri, Teariki Faireka, Tupou Faireka, Tautua Solomona, Saula Lotowa, Kna Nga, Quinton Wainiqolo, Mata Matapakia
Avatiu Field: 12:30pm “Get Into Rugby” Programme: U11s & U13s (Referee: Ben Koteka), 2.15pm U19: Avatiu Eels-Arorangi Cowboys (Refs: Paul Allsworth, Assist Refs: Paul Peyroux/Kora Kora), 4pm: Senior A Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels (Refs: Tua Ngaputa, Assist Refs: Simiona Teiotu/Junior Takairangi. In Goal: Paul Peyroux/Paul Allsworth. Subs: Pare Rongokea/Peter Godfrey. Referee Coordinator: Papa Tom Wills/Ben Koteka/Johnny Hosking)