It might not be the most free-flowing game of Tasman Tanning Premier rugby, but the spectacle and competition should nonetheless be keen in the Ratana Pa on Saturday as the final weekend of the first round sees a unique promotion/relegation style matchup.
With Premier and Senior set to split for the first time into three different divisions in early June, both Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri and Harvey Round Motors Ratana sit on the bubble alongside Black Bull Liquor Pirates to have to drop out of the top grade for the rest of 2019.
They meet at the Pa in a lower end of the table clash, which in last year's Premier competition was pretty meaningless, aside from personal pride, but this season will directly affect the remaining draw and travel schedules of 12 teams.
Both Ratana and Ngamatapouri have managed only one win and bonus point so far this campaign, both against Pirates, as the South Taranaki side hammered the previous year's grand finalists 51-22 on the opening weekend in a result that proved deceptive for Ngamatapouri's optimism.
Ratana and their community likewise received a boost when they just held off Pirates 22-21 in Week 3 on their return to playing in the Pa, having been exiled from the ground since June 2017.
But it has been a barren time since then, and while Pirates under new coach Danny Tamehana are approaching their sojourn against the leading Senior grade teams for a separate championship with some positivity, feeling it could be a realistic goal, Ngamatapouri have no interest in a half-hearted effort against Ratana, even if it means the team which stays up is likely to be very outmatched for the rest of the season.
"We don't want to lose now, we're not in that game at all," said manager Gerald Pearce.
Ratana have signalled their home game is going ahead despite defaulting their away match to Waverley Harvesting Border last Saturday through a lack of available props, which given current circumstances, Pearce is treating with some suspicion.
"I think everyone did. They just wanted a week's rest.
"We'll be getting close [to 22 players], we'll know [at training]."
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Their 2018 Steelform Wanganui No8 Bryn Hudson has said he might be back for this game after limping off at halftime of the annual duck shooting night match with Border on May 3, although goalkicker Sheldon Parkinga-Manhire still remains unlikely after being hurt in the same game.
"We lost 4-5 for the 3-4 weeks since Border," said Pearce.
Both teams come at this match from opposite ends of the deficiency scale.
In captain Rassiat Vukula, double union representative Jim Seruwalu, Joeli Vasukacivi and Wanganui representative Samu Kubunavanua, Ngamatapouri have individual game breakers who can make tries out of nowhere from either end of the field.
However, behind those men is little support in terms of the set-piece - struggling in scrums, lineouts and control of the break down.
Before the last round, Kubunavanua was sitting in second place on the Grand Irish Bar MVP standings behind Ratana's Dale Akuhata – the standout flanker in the home team's forward pack - who traditionally like to keep the ball in tight and try to make the most out of their scrum and rolling mauls.
But Ratana must rely on that because they don't have any current representative players or individual game breakers able to spark an unseen opportunity, aside from their semi-retired coach Steelie Koro.
Pearce agreed in a game of opposites attack, Ngamatapouri will likely be trying to get more tries on the board than the home side without the greater share of territory or possession.
"That's got to be the way – try to get some front foot ball and get our backs going.
"If we can get some good scrum ball, we'll be right.
"It's a new ground [in the Pa], so we don't know what that's like yet.
"I think it might be a bit niggly on their part, we've come to accept that."
In the other games for the weekend, McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu will bring their undefeated streak and the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield to the Country Club to face Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau, who have performed well on their own patch against the mountain men in recent seasons.
Having had an unscheduled week off, Border come to Spriggens Park to give Pirates their sendoff from the top grade, while Byford's Readimix Taihape will want to continue building confidence for Division 1 when they host a Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist team in their second tough away game in two weeks.