The Eels, who are the former champions, struggled at the beginning of the season but managed to overturn their fortunes with a 42-4 win against the Panthers at Victoria Park.
And the Meti Noovao-coached side will be seeking inspiration from that massive win when they take on the Panthers in the Raro Cars Rugby League Competition 2019 semi-final today at National Stadium in Nikao.
Noovao said the knockout stage was a different ball game and anything could happen in the do-or-die clash.
“We basically have to focus when it comes down to ball possession. We have to protect the ball at times, ball security is important and by this I mean, we need to complete our set of six and avoid silly offloads,” Noovao said.
“Also we need to turn on these big guys. They have a big forward pack and we need to turn these guys around and play in their half for the majority of the game.
“We basically need to keep the ball away from the heavy packs and try and target their comfortable defenders.”
The Eels and Panthers share an interesting rivalry given they are both city teams and Noovao believes this would make the battle even more interesting.
“For us this match will be harder than last week’s game. There is no doubt we expect a tough battle from the Panthers.
“It’s all about mental toughness at this time of the year. We have done all the training throughout the season, now it comes down to the mental strength of the players and having the attitude to deliver on the day.
“We just need to make sure we are keeping under the umbrella of good discipline, being aggressive in defence but making sure we keep things under control.”
The Panthers played the Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles in the top two playoff on Friday last week. The Sea Eagles after their 28-6 win have made it through to next week’s showdown.
And Panthers’ coach Darren Piri said the side was hoping to make the most of their second shot at the title defence.
“There is a job that needs to be done and the boys are looking forward to the match. I think it will come down to who is hungrier for a win,” Piri said.
“Like always when the two town teams play, it fuels a bit of rivalry and we hope this will bring the best out of the two teams.”
Piri said as defending champions, there was a bit of pressure on the side.
“There is always pressure there but it comes down to who wants to win it more. Our season was full of ups and downs and I think it was because of the individual performances.
“We trained well as a team but it comes down to individuals and how much they are wanting to play rugby league.”
Piri is calling on fans from both sides to come and enjoy a “great spectacle” when the two teams lock horn for a spot in the showdown.
The Eels versus the Panthers match will kick off at 4.30pm.
10.45am U9/11 – Tupapa Panthers-Arorangi Bears, U9/11 – Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Avatiu Eels; 11.30am U13 – Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears; 12.25pm U16 – Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears; 1.30pm U19 Arorangi Bears-Nga/Mat Sea Eagles; 2.55pm Reserves – Tupapa Panthers-Nga/Mat Sea Eagles; 4.30pm Premier – Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels