The Pikiao Warriors have overcome a flat first half to beat Taupo 54-24 and inch closer to securing a home semifinal.
Coach Jason Parata said three premier players played for the reserves beforehand as they were short on players.
"We were a bit flat to be honest, the halftime score was 20-16 to us, it was a bit tough.
"We finished it off - it was a physical game and we were too flat in the first half.
"A few of us had a few things to say at halftime, just to wake up, and that gave them a bit of a spark," Parata said.
The platform was set in the middle of the field while the players with speed out wide scored the tries, he said.
"To still get a fairly good win was good.
"Taupo always fight hard, it's different playing against them because it's more physical than mental.
"With Otumoetai [who Pikiao beat least week] you have to have a good strategy, but when you play Taupo you have to be ready for big runs and big tackles."
Next week they take on bottom-of-the-table Taneatua before having a bye in the last round, and Pikiao are well aware a flat first half in the semifinals will be punished.
"The game against Taneatua will be the last chance to work on things before semifinals.
"We need to do the little things right."
Parata said the bye round would be a chance for players carrying injuries to recover, while they would also need to work hard to maintain fitness and momentum.
Meanwhile, the Ngongotaha Chiefs beat Taneatua 24-12, but left coach Jason Walker frustrated by a lack of discipline.
"It was a win, but it wasn't a very nice win, it was a messy one," Walker said.
Ngongotaha had two men sin-binned in one play when a Taneatua player took a quick tap only to be foot-tripped by one defender and shoulder-charged by another.
"Our discipline keeps letting us down, we're falling back into our old ways again.
"We don't practise that stuff at training, whether they get tired or let the other teams get to them I don't know.
"They can play some good football and then next minute they're doing stuff like that, I don't understand what their thoughts are.
"It was good to get a win but I think they know they could've done better, it was pretty quiet after the game."
He said the standout players for his side were hooker Destry Tamai and prop Matt Filipo.
"Destry distributed well around the middle and defended well. Matt was man-of-the-match, he made some good busting runs and was looking for offloads."