Manawatu club rugby reaches home stretch as jostle starts for playoff spots
At the halfway point of the Manawatu club rugby season, the regular playoff contenders have worked themselves into a handy lead from the chasing pack.
But they might not have it all their own way with many of the teams below them rounding into form.
We take a look at how each team is looking for the second half of the season.
COLLEGE OLD BOYS
It was all looking very shaky for COB early in the year, but they are now back clicking on all cylinders.
The COB forwards impressed in the back half of the campaign.
But it is their backs who have improved the most.
In Curtis Reid and Patrick Tafili-Reid, they have a rep-quality midfield, while Andrew McDougall is having his best season yet on the wing.
Halfback Karl Bryson will be back from suspension in the second match of the round which will be a boost and allow Tyler Rogers-Holden to move back to his preferred position at fullback.
Looking good: Centre Patrick Tafili-Reid
Top try-scorer: Patrick Tafili-Reid (7)
Most points: Bryce Grant (54)
The draw always meant things were going to be tough on Yellows in the first round.
Picking up wins in the first two weeks of round two will be key of they want to improve their position of the ladder.
Their forward pack does not appear as strong this season as previous years, but with Ben Wyness at first five-eighth, the backline has been looking good.
Looking good: Prop Timo Bristow
Top try-scorer: Matt Dalley (5)
Most points: Ben Wyness (69)
Predicted finish: Seventh
FEILDING OLD BOYS-OROUA
The Stags started the year at a cracking pace, but derailed in the middle of the round.
A 50 percent record is not bad, but their surprise loss to Freyberg is what effectively cost them the chance to fight for a top four spot at the midway point of the season.
Their biggest issue comes up front where they have been bullied at set piece in a couple of key matches.
They remain in the running for the semifinals, but have some big ground to make up.
Flankers George McPherson and Cody Shailer, hooker Max Fryatt will need to continue their form up front to allow their star-studded backline to shine.
Looking good: Halfback Tom Stewart
Top try-scorer: Ollie Brosnahan (5)
Most points: Tom Stewart (48)
Predicted finish: Fifth
Freyberg have been a quality side for 40 minutes of every match they have played.
Now the challenge is turning it on for the full 80 minutes and that will require more mental toughness.
If they can avoid dropping their heads after making mistakes, they will do much better than the one win they have had so far.
They won't have Mapa Tuipulotu, who is out with a serious hamstring injury, but have a group of battlers capable of better than what they have shown.
Looking good: No 8 Josh Leung-Wai
Top try-scorer: Five players (2)
Most points: Wiremu Morgan (18)
They have moments when they have looked unbeatable, but others where they have looked very average.
The one common factor in every game for Kia Toa is their red hot attack.
Just once in the first round were they held under 29 points.
Consistency is always the battle for Kia Toa, but they have a habit of turning up for the big matches.
Looking good: No 8 Brayden Iose
Top try-scorer: Jordan Bunce (6)
Most points: Jade Te Rure (58)
The performances of Linton so far this season have vindicated the decision for the team to stick in the top tier of the competition.
Battling their typical issues with player availability, Linton have managed to field a competitive side in most matches.
And they are a dangerous banana-skin opponent for those chasing the semifinals.
If they can get some senior players back, they are good enough to knock off one of the competition leaders before the season is over.
Looking good: Flanker Angus White
Top try-scorer: TeJay Oliver (4)
Most points: Adam Erimiha (21)
There could not be a more fairly place team on the competition ladder than OBM - they beat every team below them and lost to every team above them.
Always a threat as the competition rounds into the business end, OBM still have the likes of Ambrose Curtis and Antonio Kiri Kiri to return.
They have the depth to cover themselves should injuries hit.
Expect them to knock of at least one of the teams above them on the table in the second round.
Looking good: No 8 Benedict Grant
Top try-scorer: Jason Temara (4)
Most points: Bain Champion (61)
Things seem to be falling into place for Te Kawau at the right time.
Te Atuarere Albert and Harrison Brewer returned late in round one and made a difference and with Liam Mitchell and Ethan Woodmass set to join them, there is some good depth starting to form for Te Kawau.
With a solid forward pack and a backline capable of breaking the game wide open, Te Kawau will cause a couple of top teams issues in the second half of the season.
Wing Adam Boult is averaging just over a try a match with his blistering pace making him a top weapon.
Looking good: Flanker Taylor Lowe
Top try-scorer: Adam Boult (9)
Most points: Temm Kauri (55)
The Sky Blues have had their depth tested through the first round so to finish with just one loss was impressive.
They head into the second round riding a seven game winning streak, which will give them plenty of confidence.
Coach Scott Lewis will be hoping the injury ward starts to empty out which will allow him to find his best line-up.
They will be without first five-eighth Sam Malcolm for most of the second round with an ankle injury, but Scott Davidson is an able replacement. While Jamie Booth's call-up to the New Zealand Sevens team will also see him miss a large chunk of the second round.
Looking good: Lock Mickey Woolliams
Top try-scorer: Nick Birchfield (6)
Most points: Sam Malcolm (41)
JUBILEE CUP FORM XV: