To use a baseball expression, there is no more warming up in the bullpen – when it comes to making the Tasman Tanning Premier playoffs, it's time to hit the home run or strike out.
After the week's break to get refreshed between the end of the first round and start of the second tomorrow, every remaining game will have implications for either a home semifinal or even finishing in the Top 4, with the leading six teams having to factor getting maximum points against the lower two sides while scrambling as many as they can from the other contenders.
For Waverley Harvesting Border, it is a "murderers row" for the next six weeks, as they will face all the current playoff contenders, beginning with the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield match with holders Black Bull Liquor Pirates at Spriggens Park tomorrow.
Pirates lifted the Shield off Border 22-17 at Waverley in the season opener in March, although the home side struggled up front without any of their Steelform Wanganui props.
Coach Ross Williams was not in charge at the time, ultimately taking the mantle back after Justin Lock accepted a new role at Feilding High, and has told the team to just prepare as if it is the team's first meeting.
"The way the sort of season works for us with the draw, we've got some real challenges.
"[March] was the first game, we didn't have a preseason.
"I wouldn't mind getting [the Shield] back though, but that's not the sole focus."
After losses to Pirates and McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu in the first round, Williams wryly took note of the Wanganui Chronicle's description of Pirates 12-10 win over Ruapehu on May 4 as having "a focus and intensity" all other teams would struggle to match.
Border, grand finalists in the past three years, want to be back in the conversation with those sides.
"Any bit of motivation," Williams said.
"That's an opportunity for us, and having a go.
"Pirates have played a similar style for a number of years, it's just the style that [needs] understanding and how to break down."
Missing from March, representative front rowers Tietie Tuimauga, Kamipeli Latu and Hamish Mellow are all ready, with Mellow over his minor ankle issue, and they must shut down Pirates formidable front line of Raymond Salu, Isaac Johnston, Framau Pulemagafa and Manulua Lafi.
The loss of midfielder Opetini Dryden with a knee injury, possibly for the season, is a blow, but speedy outside back Tom Symes rejoins the bench after being injured in the first Pirates game.
Williams said he has put the pressure on the team's incumbent Wanganui players to show the way for the squad's handful of 18-19 year olds.
"I guess that boys become men, they've got to become men when you play power teams.
"You just can't lose to these teams twice in the year.
"I just hope there's a free-flowing game of rugby, that we get to see a spectacle."
While Border want to keep pace with the Top 2, Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist are in a fight for survival as they sit six points back from PGG Wrightson-Ballance Taihape, while only two ahead of Waverley Car Centre Kaierau in their three team mini-tournament for fourth spot.
Marist coach Jerome McCrea had to deal with an "unreal" injury toll amongst his backline in the last few weeks of Round 1, with the biggest blow being the loss of talented first five Sam Monaghan with concussion.
McCrea has tapped the young man from Fordell – Ashton Coates – to take on running the cutter and he is pleased with how Coates has settled in.
"We're a lot better now, had a good training run on Tuesday with 20.
"For sure, she's going to be all go this second round."
Like Border, McCrea will be asking a lot of his Wanganui incumbent players to carry the can, while they take the opposite route with the bottom two teams first up, starting with Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri up in the valley tomorrow, followed by "murderers row" for the rest of the round.
"Our senior players have really stepped up the last couple of weeks," the coach said.
Prop Viki Tofa, lock and new captain Sam Madams, and the outside back combination of Simon Dibben and Cameron Crowley have it on their shoulders.
In the other games, Harvey Round Motors Ratana host Taihape at Marton Park, while Ruapehu have yet another trip to Whanganui, this time to face a desperate Kaierau at the Country Club.