Taradale Rugby and Sports can afford to draw next weekend's round-nine away match against Havelock North in Hawke's Bay premier club rugby and still win the Nash Cup.
But don't mention that scenario to the Mighty Maroons captain and lock Andrew Gardner.
"Points don't mean anything. We want to win the game against Havelock North," Gardner said after his troops maintained their unbeaten run with a 29-15 win over Auto Super Shoppe Hastings Rugby and Sports at Taradale on Saturday.
Gardner produced a player-of-the-match display with powerful carries and a huge defensive workrate. But more important was his ability to get his lads to buy into the messages he delivered throughout the game, particularly the need to be composed and patient.
"The boys were a bit hungry at the start. We needed to settle for a couple of more phases before we went wide. When we were down 15-12 at halftime that was only the first or second time this season we were behind but there was no panic."
When it was suggested to Gardner his team would be hard to beat in the more prestigious Maddison Trophy competition, he refused to look that far ahead.
"We've stressed all season we're only going to take things one game at a time. Our next one is Havelock North."
Busy No 8 Iakopo Mapu was another to shine in the Taradale pack, which had no passengers and was more physical than the Hastings engine room. Halfback Humphrey Sheild was again outstanding and second five-eighth Nathan Ramsay and substitute winger Ollie Sapsford were other valuable contributors in the hosts' backline.
"They took every one of their chances and we didn't," Hastings coach Bevan Lynch said afterwards.
He agreed the sinbinning of his substitute hooker Miracle Lolofie came at a crucial time in the second half. Locks JJ Scales and Jessie Lesa-Sipaia and prop Aleki Vuki had massive workrates in the Hastings pack.
Hastings second five-eighth Neria Fomai scored a cracker of a try in the first half but like his fellow backs was outplayed for most of the game, although substitute winger Mason Emerson deserves kudos for his try-saving tackle on Mapu.
NOBM 48 Havelock North 38
Defending champions WIT Napier Old Boys Marist kept their slim hopes of retaining the Nash Cup alive with this entertaining Anderson Park victory.
"Havelock North displayed plenty of grit and kept coming back at us," NOBM head coach Craig Gowler said.
Gowler was impressed with the work captain Matt Gardner did in the openside flanker role.
"Matt doesn't normally play that position and spent a lot of time googling what is required in the position and displayed the benefits."
Lock Sean Skeet, who was again a workaholic and dynamic in the air, and improving loosehead prop Lee Moleili were others to make Gowler's MVP list. Progressive Meats Havelock North manager Gary Revell agreed it was "an entertaining game for the neutral spectators" and admitted the hosts were happy with their performance.
Lock Patrick Allen, No 8 Albert Hemopo and centre Anzelo Tuitavake showed why they have been named in the Magpies' wider training group with their respective contributions.
MAC 32 Tamatea 32
In his first outing since returning from a two-year Mormon mission in El Salvador, blindside flanker Paula Latu was inspirational in this thrilling draw at Bill Mathewson Park.
"Paula scored two tries and exceeded expectations in what was another typical entertaining traditional match between these two clubs," MAC head coach Anthony Morley said.
"While we did well to score 12 points in the final eight minutes to secure the draw we had plenty of other opportunities but lacked accuracy with our execution because the boys were a bit anxious."
Openside flanker and co-captain Willie Benson impressed with his workrate and leadership for the visitors, and No 8 Fa'alemiga Selesele was prominent in MAC's fightback.
"I'm happy with the improvement we are showing each week but the boys are upset with the draw," Tamatea coach Levi Armstrong said.
Centre Jimi Harris deserved his two tries for the hosts, who benefited from some classy direction from Magpie Lincoln McClutchie in both the fullback and first five-eighth positions after spending time as injury cover at the Highlanders. Loosehead prop Mason Kean was again powerful against his former club.
Tech 43 Central 21
Fullback Michael Fox grabbed a hat-trick for Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical in this Whitmore Park victory.
"It was closer than the score indicates. We were leading 24-21 before we got ahead during the final 10 minutes. Central had a good pack with Geoff Cridge and Tom and Ben Parsons playing," Texans manager Cyril Whitburn said.
Magpies props Mark Braidwood and Tim Farrell and in-form lock Elijah Martin provided plenty of grunt for the hosts' pack, and regular loosie Jason Cutbush had a memorable game on the wing for the below-strength Northfuels Central side.
First five-eighth Braydon Hardwidge operated well in the visiting backline while lock Tom Parsons, who scored two tries, was the pick of the forwards.
"While we dominated up front silly mistakes cost us on attack and Tech were classy out wide," Central manager Ian Large said.
Pirate 23 Clive 15
Regular loosie Damien Scott impressed in the locking role for Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports in this Tamatea Park win.
"Damien cleaned up well and thrived in the job but is happy to return to the loosies department. It was a physical game and a strong start was the key to our win," Pirate manager Charles Reid said.
Openside flanker Gerome Naera was also prominent in the host pack, while fullback Zion Clarke, who slotted five of his six attempts at goal and shone in general play, was the pick of the Pirate backs.
Magpies loosie Josh Kaifa was dynamic at No 8 in his first full game of the season for Tremains Andrew Clark Clive. Lock Donovan Mataira, who has been named as one of seven Development players in the Magpies' wider training group, is doing enough to suggest he is Mitre 10 Cup material according to Clive head coach Vaine Maui.
Fullback Brendon Pena had his best game of the season in the visiting backline.