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Panthers topple Eels in close game

Wednesday 31 March 2010 | Published in Regional

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Tupapa Panthers supporters were ecstatic after their premier league team defeated the Avatiu Eels 20-18 in their own territory on Saturday.

It was the first time the two teams faced each other this season after their first round game was cancelled by the tsunami.

The Panthers were out to win from the get go and with returning players Mana Hosking, Kairan Mahia and Sema Mataora taking the field the Panthers never looked like losing the match.

They commanded proceedings on the field, starving the Eels of possession and territory and when the Eels did have ball in hand they coughed it up to put the Panthers into prime attacking positions.

The black and white squad pounced early and posted three fantastic tries in quick succession via Tupou Faireka Jnr, Rua Ngametua and Kairan Mahia to lead 12-0.

Eels’ pivot Bobby Hansen then crossed the line to pull back the Panthers’ lead to 12-6 at the half time break.

The Panthers were quick to find the try line early in the second half with Sema Mataora slipping through the Eels defence to dot down and take the teams score to 18-6.

Then Eels captain Bilsy Gukisuva got his team back on the board with a bone crunching drive across the try line.

Gukisuva’s try did wonders to spark his team into action and after a hard fought set the side managed to cross the line with a team effort try to level 18-18.

The last 10 minutes of the game was a heart-stopping affair for both Panthers and Eels fans who willed their respective teams to go for a drop goal.

Avatiu squandered an opportunity to score a try and with ball in hand the Panthers drove them back across the pitch and forced the penalty.

The Panthers made sure to capitalise on the Eels’ error to take the win 20-18.

Earlier on in the week – the Sharks savaged the Bulldogs 28-16 while the Bears and Sea Eagles couldn’t break their 24-all score.