Otangarei Knights will have to work on their discipline to remain unbeaten after overcoming a gritty Horahora Broncos for a close 28-20 win in the RLN Premiership.
Home crowd at Fishbone Park, Otangarei, did help but Knights coach Des Nordstrand said his side could not afford to play the way they did on Saturday heading into the business end of the competition.
"We got our game back together in the second half after a messy first half when our players were playing in different positions. Horahora came out wanting a win."
The visitors led 16-12 at the breather.
Nordstrand said injuries to key players was no excuse in a game they could have easily lost.
"Hopefully we get ourselves together. If we play like we've been doing for the last two to three weeks, we won't be top of the table for long. Mental toughness and discipline will need to improve"
The Knights travel to play Moerewa Tigers on Saturday in a must-win match.
Nordstrand said he rested a couple of key players last weekend and was keeping fingers crossed those injured resumed training this week to be match fit for Saturday.
Prop Jordash Kaihe, centre Shane Herbert, and wings Brendon Cock and Bryce Rawhiti scored for the Knights.
Broncos coach Sean Tito said it was a competitive match that could have swayed either way.
"We gave Otangarei a run for their money. The boys believed in each other although we're bottom of the table. We just went there to play well and could have won."
He singled second rower Laykin Beddie and brothers Kane and Ra Thompson as standout performers.
His side will host Takahiwai this weekend.