Struggle for Ratz

IT'S been a difficult fortnight for the Manning Ratz in the Lower North Coast Rugby Union competition.

Two weeks ago the Ratz were on a high after four successive wins. The Ratz looked set to challenge for a top two berth and also appeared to be secure in the top four.

However, a string of injuries to key players and losses to Wallamba and then Forster-Tuncurry the second a 43-7 drubbing at Tuncurry now has the Ratz precariously placed.

Premiers Myall Lakes returned to form with a 69-10 thrashing of Gloucester at Tea Gardens.

"That means we're only two points ahead of Myall Lakes,'' Ratz captain-coach Danial Stone said.

The Ratz will meet Gloucester tomorrow at Taree Rugby Park. They'll be bolstered by the return of forwards Jon Annand and Tom Johnston who were unavailable last week.

However fullback Jordan Weir sustained a groin injury against the Dolphins and will miss tomorrow while utility back Brentt Hodge and prop Isaac Castle remain on the injured list.

Stone expects Matt Hardcastle to fill in at custodian for Weir.

"But I think we've had enough injuries to last us for a while,'' he said.

He described tomorrow's game as a 'must win' and is pleased to be back on their home track.

Stone admits his depleted side was never in the hunt against the Dolphins.

"Forster's come ahead in leaps and bounds,'' he said.

"But we'll be a bit closer to full strength for this week, so hopefully we'll improve.''