Newcastle rugby: Lake Macquarie pack given one job against Merewether | photos

KEY MAN: Lake Macquarie captain Brendan Holliday is in career-best form ahead of the crucial clash with Merewether at Walters Park on Saturday. Pictures: Stewart Hazell

KEY MAN: Lake Macquarie captain Brendan Holliday is in career-best form ahead of the crucial clash with Merewether at Walters Park on Saturday. Pictures: Stewart Hazell

LAKE Macquarie coach Tim Chidgey has one instruction for the Roos pack against Merewether at Walters Park on Saturday – provide front-foot ball for fly-half Brandan Holliday.

POWER PACKED: Merewether No.8 Jarome Wilson trucks the ball up.

POWER PACKED: Merewether No.8 Jarome Wilson trucks the ball up.

At stake is fifth place and poll position in the race to the finals.

Lake Macquarie sit alongside Merewether on 35 points, but are sixth on points differential.

Holliday produced a miracle final play, floating a Hail Mary pass on the inside for Caileb Gerrard to slice through and snatch a draw against premiers Hamilton last round.

IN-FORM: Jay Strachan has recovered from a back injury to spark the Greens.

IN-FORM: Jay Strachan has recovered from a back injury to spark the Greens.

“If Brendan gets front-foot ball, he is pretty good to watch,” Chidgey said. 

“From 10 he is hitting wingers and fullbacks coming in. He has forwards on the inside of him. We have to get Brendan good ball. Then he just plays what is in front of him. 

“We need to get stuck into their forwards. If we can get them on the back foot, that opens up things for Raj (Holliday) and the backs.”

Block-busting prop Willie Fraser returns from suspension and Marvin Tauhinu (breakaway) and Josh Nicho (hooker) also bolster the pack.

The Roos were penalised heavily at the breakdown by referee Brendon Farrar and lost a player to the sinbin against the Hawks.

Farrar is again in control at Walters Park, and Chidgey said he had spoken to the whistleblower mid-week to get clarity on a few interpretations.

“We just have to make sure we are out of that (breakdown) area,” Chidgey said. “Rugby is a pretty complicated game. You can find a penalty anywhere if you want to.”

Merewether have strung a draw and three wins together to shoot up the table.

“The boys are starting to believe in their ability and believe in the structures we have put in place,” co-coach Mick Gill said. “In saying that, we weren’t happy with our game against Uni (52-34 win). We were up 30-10 early in the second half and switched off. Uni got to within seven points at one stage.”

Lake Macquarie were down 37-16 with 18 minutes remaining against Hamilton and scored three converted tries.

“Lake Macquarie keep coming at you,” Gill said. “They have a big pack, which likes to roll forward and Holliday works off the back of that.”

After the Greens, the Roos have away games to Maitland and Nelson Bay. Merewether tackle Southern Beaches (home) and Hamilton (away).

“If we win this, we are in control of our own destiny,” Chidgey said.

The Waratahs, who are three points behind Merewether and Lake Macquarie, are the only other side with a realistic chance of moving into the five. 

They meet Wanderers at No.2 Sportsground.

In other games, third-place Southern Beaches welcome back skipper Va Talaileva for the clash against Hamilton at Passmore Oval.

Player coach Mark O’Brien returns to the starting side for University against Maitland and Singleton make the long trip to Nelson Bay.

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