Otumoetai Eels premiers slithered their way to a winning 54-28 but messy encounter over Pikiao Warriors who seemed disinterested after realising their playoffs chances were slim before the game, handing the Eels a win mostly lacking in finesse and structure.
After building a 38-4 halftime lead, the writing was on the wall for a huge score but to Pikiao's credit they never gave up and scored three soft but well deserved tries in the last 20 minutes to expose the Eels defence after they led 54-10.
With the Eels travelling to Taniwharau, it showed they have the nous to put points on the board but by leaking easy points they have a lot of work to do during the week to close up the defensive frailties where they have been averaging 26 points conceded per game.
For the Eels, hooker Tane Leef and second row Hamish Newlands were huge on defence with wing Mark Ballantyne courageous out wide.
Props Meihana Herbert and Rocky Ahuriri were the pick of the Pikiao Warriors with their huge runs up the middle creating the forward momentum for the tries near the end of the game.
For the Eels, tries to Maka Mohi (2) Mark Ballantyne, Kere Thompson, Danny Tonga, Justin Wigmore (2), Tane Leef, Josh Weeden, Daniel Holmes. Weeden 7 conversions.
To help the Eels catapult into fourth position, Ngongotaha Chiefs caused a boilover by upending Taupo Phoenix 24-22 in a tight encounter in Rotorua, resulting in Taupo dropping to fifth.
With three rounds left in the competition, it's going to be a tussle of who misses the playoffs between the Eels and Taupo.
This Saturday, the Eels travel to Taniwharau, Taupo host the unbeaten Hamilton City Tigers, Hamilton United host Pikiao with Pacific Sharks travelling to bottom of the table Ngaruawahia's Turangwaewae. Ngongotaha have the bye.
Cross Country Rentals Wai-Coa-Bay Premiership
Turangawaewae 6 v 66 Taniwharau
United 6 v 76 Hamilton City Tiger's
Otumoetai Eels 54 v 28 Pikiao Warriors
Ngongotaha 24 v 22 Taupo Phoenix
Pacific Sharks - bye
Reporoa Razorbacks 18 v 54 Central Lions
United 0 v 20 Hamilton City Tiger's
Turangawaewae 12 v 34 Taniwharau
Otumoetai Eels 48 v 20 Pikiao Warriors
Pacific Sharks - bye
Tauhara Te Maunga 22 v 42 Putauaki Stags
Papamoa Bulldogs 6 v 46 Taneatua
Mangakino Hawks - bye