Roos welcome big-match vibe of Merewether clash

LAKE Macquarie assistant coach Bob Harrison would rather be playing defending premiers Merewether than one of the lesser lights as the perennial battlers look to take another step on the tightrope to a Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union finals berth.

The Roos take on the Greens at Townson Oval tonight. They are sixth on 45 points, three points behind Wanderers, who meet leaders Hamilton at No.1 Sportsground on Sunday.

A loss tonight could be fatal to their finals hopes.

The most likely outcome is that they will face Wanderers in a showdown for a fifth spot in the final round.

‘‘We have always been a side who has responded to the bigger games rather than the not-so-bigger games,’’ Harrison said. ‘‘Of all the sides I have been associated with, this team is the least fazed when they are playing teams one, two, three or four.

‘‘Because of experience in the team, they get themselves up for the big games and look forward to the big games.’’

After a roller-coaster start to the campaign, the Roos have strung four wins and a draw together.

They beat second-placed Southern Beaches a fortnight ago and held Hamilton to a 17-all draw last round.

‘‘We have shown elements of that throughout the year.

‘‘We are probably putting it together for longer periods of the game now and we have eradicated those down periods in the game. I don’t think we could have done much more in the past fortnight. We have beaten Beaches and probably should have beaten Hamilton.

‘‘Playing Merewether on Friday night, that will suit us more than them.

‘‘I was at Merewether for three years, they like a hard ground and the sun shining on a Saturday afternoon. Playing on a Friday night, it will be a bit dewy and damp.’’

The draw against the Hawks was achieved without former Waikato Chief Mark Burman, who is again in doubt with a back injury.

‘‘We are not sure how he will come up,’’ Harrison said.

‘‘He is obviously a talented player and everybody thought we were a bit of a one-trick pony. Against a team like Hamilton, to go in without him and do OK shows we have got a little bit more.

Lake Macquarie upset the Greens 21-12 in their first meeting at Walters Park in round eight, a win Harrison believes was the turning point.

‘‘It wasn’t just kick a penalty goal at the end to win, it was a fairly comprehensive display across the park,’’ he said.

‘‘The one thing that really gave them confidence was big Junior To’o man-handling mark Wade and Dan Kevill.

‘‘I think our pack is superior. It is not as free flowing or expansive, but it is one of the toughest. I know Merewether aren’t always prepared to roll the sleeves up.’’

Kevill was forced off with a shoulder injury in the first half of the Greens’ 29-5 loss to Maitland last round but is expected to line up tonight.

But the Greens will be without captain Mick Gill due to knee injury.

Merewether need to win tonight, possibly with a bonus point, to stay in third ahead of Maitland, who meet cellar dwellers Singleton tomorrow.

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