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Byford's Readmix Taihape have only two home games remaining in the Tasman Tanning Premier regular season, but they'll be glad to dig two graves for the South Taranaki teams who venture to Memorial Park.
Rivals Waverley Harvesting Border loom on the horizon for June 19, but first, Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri make the intrepid bus trip this Saturday.
They will find a home side who, in consecutive Memorial games, smashed Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist 81-14 and then made a big statement with a comprehensive 32-8 win over fellow Top 3 outfit Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau – reversing the defeats of the past two years on that ground.
"I watched the game a few times, and [Kaierau] still played bloody well – the score doesn't always reflect how the game is played," said coach Tom Wells.
"It was good to rewrite [those losses] and good we put in another performance after the Marist game.
"We've got to maintain our standard, and we've set that the last two weeks – anything less than that is not acceptable."
Taihape's determination is reflected in the MVP list, with two players in the Top 5 – standout No.8 Ben Whale and hard-working prop Hadlee Hay-Horton.
"Hadlee is the best player in Whanganui, in my eyes," said Wells, who remembers Taihape's 2019 championship was delivered on the back of another strong prop in Wiremu Cottrell.
"Ben, he's carrying the ball a lot. It's good, especially with Tremaine [Gilbert] being out."
Taihape hope Gilbert's injured back has recovered enough to get some game time after the Queen's Birthday Weekend break.
"We're still carrying injuries like we have for the season – constantly missing two or three guys."
Others have stepped up – Cyrus Paringtai and Jaye Flaws reunited the old firm in the midfield, while utility back Tim Goodwin got a deserved start last weekend at winger to score a try.
"They were even better against Kaierau [than Marist], and Tim's been one of our best players in the first part of the season," said Wells of the trio.
After running into some form themselves by testing Kaierau and then overcoming McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu, Ngamatapouri's aspirations of an inaugural Premier semifinal hit a big snag in the 32-17 loss to a desperate Marist at Spriggens Park.
"Things just got away, it just didn't go our way," said manager Gerald Pearce.
"They were quite good around the loose ball, kept flogging it off us.
"We've been pretty competitive all the way through, but we let our guard down too much."
Ngamatapouri's helter-skelter style could see them secure at least a four-try bonus point if Taihape don't keep a firm grip at Memorial Park, with every point counting in the race with Ruapehu and Marist to secure fourth.
Centre Joeli Rauca has scored five tries in two games, and alongside fellow midfielder Jim Seruwalu and talented outside back Emitai Logadraudrau, they could find a way through.
"Both wings are going quite well," said Pearce.
"Our plan is to knock one of the big ones off – we think we're capable of it.
"We've got a few joining our ranks too, although possibly not this game."
Former Steelform Whanganui and NZ Heartland XV No.8 Bryn Hudson comes back into the starting lineup after returning from injury off the bench last weekend, although the team will definitely miss accomplished goal kicker Brook Tremayne with a hurt calf muscle.
In the other games, Border will go for a 14th consecutive home win when Marist comes to Dallison Park, while an injury-hit Kaierau must pick themselves up to face Ruapehu at the Country Club.
Forwards dominate the top of the Grand Irish Bar Most Valuable Player (MVP) standings at the halfway point of the Premier regular season.
The MVP prize is determined by most overall points awarded out of each match, on a 3-2-1 allocation basis, over the ten weeks of games before the semifinals.
1. Ben Whale (Taihape) 11 points; 2. Jack Kinder (Ruapehu) 9; 3=. Semi Vodosese (Border), Hadlee Hay-Horton (Taihape), Jack Yarrall (Marist) 8.