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AFTER having the long weekend off, premier rugby is back in full swing this Saturday, with Ngatapa facing HSOB and OBM taking on YMP.

East Coast Farm Vets YMP (23 points) will be looking for redemption after they were unable to hold on to the top spot of the competition leaderboard against GT Shearing Waikohu (25 points), who have a bye this weekend. Enterprise OBM (18 points) are trailing closely behind the two leaders, but with only three weeks of the regular season left, they will have to be perfect if they want to improve their position going into the playoffs.

Larsawn Ngatapa (8 points) and Contract Consultants HSOB (0 points) are still in search of the form they need to challenge the frontrunners, but they are still dangerous and could shake up the competition standings if taken lightly.

YMP coach Brian Leach says he expects another tough battle against OBM (at Rugby Park at 2.45pm) as they look to consolidate going into the playoffs.

They will be looking to utilise their strong backline with open running rugby, but Leach said the forwards need to do the work upfront to provide clean ball.

With fine weather forecast for tomorrow, YMP will be dangerous on the edges if OBM can’t get up in time to shut them down.

YMP are most dangerous in broken play, with a raft of skilful ball runners who can capitalise on a disorganised defensive line.

Leach said while he wants the backline to dominate, the game will be decided in the forwards, who will have to neutralise the OBM pack.

“The game is going to be determined on how the first scrum goes.”

The last time the two teams faced, OBM struggled to match YMP at scrum time and often opted for the lineout when given the opportunity.

OBM coach Clint Pirihi said they didn’t have their preferred front row in their first encounter and suffered as a consequence.

“That game was different. We’re blessed this weekend with a great forward pack.”

Pirihi said the team recognised that they weren’t fit enough in their encounter with Waikohu, and despite it being the business end of the season, they have worked on their fitness through the long weekend break.

“I think we need it (cardio) for that run into the semis.”

OBM back at full strength

OBM are well-rested and will come into this weekend at full strength, Pirihi said. Lock Duran Smith will return from injury after being sidelined with a rib injury in the first round.

Pirihi will not be on the sideline this weekend and wanted to thank the management and assistant coach Jacob Cook for managing the helm in his absence.

The game between Ngatapa and HSOB (at the Oval at 2.45pm) has strong playoff implications for both teams. If HSOB are unable to muster their first win of the season this weekend, they will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Ngatapa coach Stephen Hickey said it was a big game for the team, who wanted to build momentum going into the business end of the competition.

While the team has been improving consistently throughout the season, they will need to lift to another level if they want to give the top teams a run for their money, said Hickey.

“It’s onwards and upwards from here. We’ll keep improving and have a bit of fun along the way.”

Hickey said their focus this weekend is on executing their game plan. They have let the decisive moments pass them by too many times this season, and they would need to be more clinical moving forward, he said.

“Winning key moments, that’s a big point. We’ve got to turn that around and win those 50-50s.”

HSOB coach Danny Boyle said his team were keen to get back on the field after a two-week break and had an intensity at training in preparation for this weekend.

“As far as the way they’ve trained goes, there’s nothing to suggest they’ve gone to seed in the past two weeks.”

He said they were still struggling for numbers, with several injuries adding to the difficulty of naming a squad.

“We’ve had plenty of success in the past, but we’re under no illusions as to how hard this season’s been.”

Boyle said the team and club extended their condolences to the Jones family for the passing of Mark “Maku” Jones, who was a versatile player who played in almost every position on the park.