That would have sent them straight to the finals of the senior A grade rugby competition.
But it was the hungrier visiting Eels that did the damage at Victoria Park signalling their intentions early on forcing Panthers errors and capitalising with the boot to put points on the board first with a penalty.
With the roar of the large Tupapa crowd at their backs, the Panthers got their claws out and showed why they are the defending club rugby champions to take over the lead on the score board and into the half-time break.
There were moments where the Eels were their own worst enemies “bombing” at least four sure tries and no doubt giving the Panthers a boost as they took on everything the Eels threw at them.
With time ticking down and neither team giving an inch, the Eels piled on the pressure in the second half with 17-year old Tupapa born-and-bred Brayden Kamana proving to be an impact player off the bench, scoring for his adopted Eels team’s first try to even the points up to 10-all with 20 minutes left on the clock.
In fact, young Brayden scored 9 points for the Eels in his short time on the field, proving to also be sharp with the booting during conversion kicking duties.
A penalty conversion to the Panthers inched them ahead on the scoreboard however the Eels ‘never say die’ attitude finally paid dividends when the ball was spread out wide to busy winger John Penu to dot down on the hooter and secure a grand finals spot for the Avatiu Eels.
Also a standout for the Eels was the ever hardworking Leki Vahefo’ou and Stanley Tobias in the forward and defending demon Lee Ponini, while young up-and-comer Brayden Kamana is certainly one to watch.
For the Panthers its back to the drawing board and you can bet your bottom dollar they will come out fighting this weekend against the Arorangi Cowboys for the last playoff for the grand final spot.
The Takuvaine Reds were no match for the Cowboys in the minor semi-final match at Raemaru Park.
Despite the loss of inspirational key players Steven Willis and young Andre Iro, the Cowboys took a chance on their young up and coming stars in the likes of 17-year old Maeva Robati and busy hard working Tanire Mokoroa to get them across the line and into grand finals contention with a convincing 28-8 win over the Reds.
The Panthers and Cowboys match-up is sure to be a fired up affair with the pressure on the Panthers as defending champions sure to driver the side while the Cowboys will be wanting a grand finals spot as reward for their hard work through the season where they struggled to translate their in-form on field performance into championship points.
For now the Avatiu Eels will make the most of the weekend break ahead where will find out who they will face in the 2019 club rugby finals between the Tupapa Panthers and Arorangi Cowboys.