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"Have we not beaten them since the  final?"
It's a Tasman Tanning Premier statistical question that almost doesn't bear answering for Byford's Readimix Taihape coach Tom Wells, but it's true.
In fact, you have to go back to 2018 to find the last time that Taihape defeated the all-conquering Waverley Harvesting Border in a regular-season game.
When including the gumboot men's championship-winning campaign of 2019 where they claimed the final after extra time, the ledger sits at 6-1 to the South Taranaki club.
Wells was disheartened when the only task left unaccomplished in his Premier coaching career – beating Border in Waverley – remained a box not ticked on May 8 after that 39-22 loss.
But it would be further galling to Taihape to once again have to lower their flags to the visitors at Memorial Park tomorrow in a fixture which, only a few years ago, they would have started as favourites.
Coming from the opposite sides of the WRFU catchment – a 154km journey – there was a period for several years where neither club could defeat the other on home turf.
"It's been reasonably convincing, to a point," said Wells of Border taking a grip on their contests.
"They're a team we can hold for 60 minutes, but then the next 20 it can run away.
"We'll just give it a crack like we always do. We're expecting them – they're top of the table for a reason."
Like most teams, Taihape are feeling the bumps and bruises of this short but intense campaign. They just scraped by McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu 25-22 in Ohakune without a specialist reserve prop.
Promising new front-rower Isaac Roth is out for the season, as is talented flanker Ollie Rhodes, while fellow flanker Lennox Shanks is playing on while taped up.
There was some good news in the loose forward department, as champion No 8 Tremaine Gilbert had a 10-minute stint against Ruapehu in his comeback from a back fracture.
"It's still a good team, but we're managing everyone to the finals," said Wells.
"There's no excuses, we'll be putting up a real good game."
Preparing his side for an 11th defence of the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield, coach Cole Baldwin is content not to be discussing walking wounded, although Border have had some.
But the machine keeps rolling – a light morning workout together tomorrow before jumping on the bus at 11am to arrive around an hour before kickoff.
"Every team's got little niggles, but we're reasonably happy with the squad we're taking up," said Baldwin.
"Any team on their day, if they get it right, can [compete] with any other team, and Taihape will be no different.
"They're a good side, got the ability to be able to hurt you in a lot of different places."
The last time Border came to Taihape during their dominant 2020 campaign it still took all their guile to get out of town with an 18-17 win, scoring in the last minute.
It's predominantly the same cast playing the starring roles – Nick Harding and Alekesio Vakororoga scored tries that day and also dotted down in the 51-10 away win last weekend against Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri.
Winger Vereniki Tikoisolomone extended his personal record to a whopping 15 tries in seven games.
Still, Baldwin has areas where he wants his team performing better – even the 33-5 win over Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist on a wet-weather afternoon a fortnight ago revealed some work-ons.
"We weren't quite doing things we need to.
"It was a good learning curve, especially if it's going to be wet up there on Saturday."
In the other games, it will be a vital clash at Spriggens Park as Marist host Ruapehu in what could be the decisive outcome for who finishes fourth on July 3.
Ngamatapouri are not out of that equation either. After hearing of Marist's upset of Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau, they might rate their chances of a similar outcome when the injury-wracked town team heads up Waitotara Valley.