MANNING Ratz face their biggest test of the Lower North Coast Rugby Union season tomorrow when they head to Nabiac to tackle the imposing Wallamba Bulls.
Both sides have 12 points and lead the pack with Wauchope Thunder. However, Ratz coach Jake Maurirere said the Bulls boast a squad hardened by years of rugby knowledge.
Wallamba's already impressive roster has been bolstered this season by players from Forster Dolphins following that club's decision not to take part in season 2020.
"Those two clubs (Forster and Wallamba) have been dominant here in the last 10 years,'' Maurirere pointed out.
The Ratz have a number of rugby rookies this year. The lack of experience was evident last weekend when the Ratz were penalised 29-5 in the game against Gloucester, the majority of fouls for technical infringements.
"That's something we've worked on at training this week,'' Maurirere assured.
However, Maurirere fears the Bulls could control the ruck and that could lead to a difficult and frustrating afternoon for the Ratz.
He also wants his team to maintain the pressure for the 80 minutes.
"In the last two games we've ran up a good lead and then dropped back a gear,'' he said.
"I want them to find another gear and step up.''
Maurirere won't make too many changes to the side that accounted for Gloucester 40-7 on a soggy Gloucester field last Saturday.
"It's a short season and we're trying to develop combinations,'' he said.
"So nothing much will change from last weekend regarding the makeup of the team.''
THERE'S a three-way tie on top of the Lower North Coast Rugby Union competition ladder going into this weekend's round four fixtures.
Manning Ratz, Wauchope Thunder and Wallamba Bulls all have 12 points, with the Ratz the leaders on points differential. The Ratz and Thunder have two wins and a draw from three games with the Bulls posting two wins and a loss. However, the Bulls have also secured four bonus points.
Four teams will contest this year's finals series after 10 rounds. Gloucester currently sits in fourth place on seven points, five clear of newcomers Barbarian Hogs, while the Old Bar Clams have yet to open their account.
Wallamba Bulls and Gloucester Cockies lead the women's 10s on 10 points, with Wallamba on top on points differential. Premiers Wauchope are third on nine with Manning Ratz fourth on two. Old Bar have zero points.
The semi-finals start on Saturday September 19 with the final on Saturday September 26.
Grand final day is Saturday October 3.