In their first round encounter, the Panthers defeated the Eels by 34-17 after racing to a 19-5 halftime lead.
Although the Darren Piri-coached side dropped a match two weeks ago (losing 14-19 to the Takuvaine Reds), they have been the form team to date. Their overall team fitness and speed right across the park are the Panthers’ strength.
Eels have had a mixed season to date and they will be coming into today’s The Bond Store match of the week severely wounded after suffering two losses in the past two weeks – 20-23 to Titikaveka Bulls and 15-17 to the Reds.
The Eels have the player power to win this match, though their recent performances have lacked cohesion and discipline.
For the visitors, the in-form loose forwards Tamanui Nicholas and Tokerau Raru and their strong running utility backs Leki Vahefoou and Lai Rogorogoivalu will be players to watch.
The Panthers will rely on their mobile tight five forwards led by frontrower John Vano and veteran lock Ngatamaine Rongo and also the organisational skills of their halves “Ozzie” Joseph and Jamain Iroa.
In the other Senior A clash today, the Reds will host the Bulls at the Happy Valley Field.
When these two teams met in the opening round, the Reds won by 20-14.
Lately the Reds have been one of the form teams, winning tough matches against some of the top teams – 19-13 against the Panthers and 17-15 against the Eels.
The Reds’ regimented and uncompromising defensive systems are one key ingredients to winning these close matches.
The Bulls will want to finish their season on a high although they may not have the personnel to upset the favoured Reds.
The Senior A matches will kick off at 4pm. - CIRU
Tupapa Field – 11am: Junior’s Programme – All Club’s Under 9 & Under 11 – All Clubs (Refs: Club Officials), 12pm: Under 13 – All Club’s (Refs: Club Officials), 1pm: Under 16 – All Club’s (Refs: Ben Koteka, Assist Refs: Club Officials), 4pm Senior A: Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Nikao Eels - The Bond Store Game of the Week (Refs: Teokotai Tuaivi Billy Junior, Assist Refs: Arthur Emile/Mike Wynne, Bench Assistance: Ben Koteka/Kora Kora)
Takuvaine Field – 4pm Senior A Grade: Takuvaine Reds-Titikaveka Bulls (Refs: Tua Ngaputa, Assist Refs: Abel Masters/Paul Peyroux. Bench Assistance: Simiona Teiotu/Dawn Crummer)