Giants Avatiu Nikao Eels and Tupapa Panthers will go head-to-head for the top place in the premier match of round five at The Swamp today.
Both teams were unbeaten in their past four matches, but the Eels have a slight lead on the points table, with a better points difference.
While the Panthers have overcome tough opponents in defending champions Titikaveka Bulldogs and Arorangi Bears, today’s clash will be the toughest one the Eels have faced so far this season.
Coach Clive Nicholas is excited with the prospect of facing a team at their high level.
“We are very excited to play against an in-form team like the Panthers. This will be our toughest battle in the competition and we are looking forward to it,” Nicholas said.
“We have heard a lot of good things about Tupapa and we have seen some of their game on TV.”
Nicholas said the players were hyped up to take on the Panthers at the home ground in this important clash.
“You don’t learn from teams you are putting 50 plus points against. We don’t gain anything good from those matches.
“But against Panthers, we will be able to gauge where we stand as a team and what areas we have to work on to become better.”
The Panthers which have proved a team to reckon with this season, have some quality players guiding them through in the weekly competition.
Their forwards, led by former NRL player Sam Mataora, are some of the best in the competition and their fast and fiery backline is hard to contain.
Panthers coach Darren Piri has played his cards well and he is expected to come up with a top game plan to keep their winning streak intact.
Following last week’s win against the Bulldogs, Piri said they would have to work on some areas to ensure they were ready to take on the Eels.
“We are not wary of Sam only, but the whole Panthers team. If you look at them, they have a pretty good squad and I think everyone in that team is a threat to us,” Nicholas said.
“For us, the focus is never on one particular player but we do take care of top players who play key roles in the opposing teams.”
Nicholas has called on supporters to come out in numbers and back the team.
“To all the league supporters, please come down to The Swamp and support your favourite teams. This is a match not to be missed.”
In the other premier match today, TKV Warriors will host the Bulldogs at the Happy Valley.
The premier matches will kick off at 4.30pm.