As expected, a desperate Eels team came to play on Saturday at Tupapa Field, and it was a contest right until the final whistle.
The Panthers led at the halftime break by 10-5 through the courtesy of a try to their left winger Jovilisi Naqitawa and conversion and penalty kicked by first five eighth Jamian Iroa.
Overall, the Panthers forwards dominated at scrum and lineout time. However, it was the Eels’ strength at the pick and go that ensured they stayed competitive throughout and enabled them to build pressure that resulted in tries to their centre Lucky Potoae (19th minute) and then barnstorming prop Toru Katuke (57th minute).
On the back of their forwards efforts, the Eels were also able to score a try in the 70th minute to their powerful midfielder Lai Rogorogoivalu and with the successful conversion from first five eighth Leki Vahefoou, the Eels led for the first time in the match 22-20.
The Eels protected their lead for the remaining 10 minutes of the match.
In the final 10 minutes of play, the Panthers were awarded kickable penalty opportunities close to the goalposts but they opted instead to go for the try.
The match proved one of the best games of the season so far. Some of the outstanding players for the Panthers were prop Davey Mato, number eight Thomas Toa and elusive midfielder Tua Ravula.
Best players for the Eels were prop Toru Katuke, lock Stanley Tobia, loose forward Li Ponini and counter attacking fullback Tevita Niusama.
Titikaveka Bulls defeated the other Senior A match against Takuvaine Reds.
Avatiu Eels: 22 (Tries: Lucky Potoae, Toru Katuke and Lai Rogorogoivalu. Conv: Leki Vahefoou (2). Pen: Leki Vahefoou) Tupapa Panthers: 20 (Tries: Jovilisi Naqitawa, Rangi Piri. Conv: Jamian Iroa (2). Pen: J Iroa (2)