OPINION: Scott Eade is a member of the 2013 Stags squad and a journalism student. He has provided us with regular columns during the NPC season.
Putting ourselves under pressure has been something of a trend this season.
We lost our first three games, recovered to beat Waikato before falling to Manawatu. Then, just when it looked as though our season was about to be a complete flop, we managed to come from behind on three occasions to win three matches on the trot.
Last week's match against Hawkes Bay really decided whether we would host a home semi-final or be hanging on the fringe of the playoffs. Unfortunately for us things didn't go to plan.
It was disappointing not to take the opportunity of having a shot at a home semi-final. However, it's a new week, and with a new week comes another challenge - and an exciting one at that.
Tonight's matchup against Counties Manukau is by far our biggest game of the season, the obvious reason being the Ranfurly Shield is on the line.
Not a lot has been spoken about the prized piece of New Zealand rugby silverware: in some ways it is the elephant in the room.
It's hard to ignore the history, the fact the province has held the shield twice during the past four years and that the the community cares greatly about the "log o' wood".
Everyone knows we are playing for the shield but we are not focusing on winning the shield, we are focusing on playing good, accurate rugby that will help us win the match. The shield is the icing on the cake, the extra reward for playing 80 minutes of quality footy.
If we execute our game plan and play to our ability there is no reason why we can't walk off the ground tonight with more than just a smile on our faces.
What stands in front of us is a Counties Manukau team that is playing both for each other and for the people in their community.
We know the threats they possess, both out wide and through the middle.
If both teams turn up to play there is no doubt it will be an epic contest.
We know we can put them under pressure: for 40 minutes last year we were dominant against them, only to fall off the pace late in the second half.
To finish off the regular season with a game such as this provides an good indicator of how the season has gone.
Win tonight and the season will be remembered for this game only.
Lose and people will look back at a season that suffered from a slow start and recovered somewhat in the middle, only to drop back off during the final two weeks.
A win will quickly evaporate memories of those losses.
- © Fairfax NZ News