INVERELL Saints and Tamworth Swans have a week off to prepare for far different runs into the semi-finals.
On one hand, the second-placed Saints are hopeful of finishing at least second and devising a plan to knock off unbeaten New England Nomads.
Tamworth Swans are at the other end of the competition, last and winless after eight rounds.
The Andrew Donohue-coached Swans tackle the soaring Narrabri Eagles after this weekend’s general bye.
The Swans might not have won a game but they are improving after good efforts against the Nomads and then last Saturday’s lightning-interrupted match against the Roos.
Down by 38 points at three- quarter time in the wet and windy conditions, the Swans swooped in the final quarter, winning it 32-10.
Club president Josh McKenzie thought it a good indication of the promise in the side despite its lowly position.
The return of Lachlan Rowling is a huge boost for the club as is the continued good form of Steve Fairless.
The Eagles had a 32-point win over the Gunnedah Bulldogs while the Tamworth Kangaroos kicked 9.6 60 to the Swans’ 5.12 42.
Roo coach Brett Douglas said the Swans “kept coming” at the Roos and their final term was impressive.
“We battled on,” Douglas said. “We didn’t convert as well as we can.
“The main thing is we won the Billy Holder Cup again. We’ve got some silverware so far.”
He was glad to see Alex Hudson return to form with three goals while Tony Bishop kicked a goal on what might have been his retirement game.
In Armidale, unbeaten New England Nomads trailed much of the game before overtaking the Inverell Saints in the final quarter.
The Nomads surged late in the third quarter to kick three goals and move within five points before finishing strongly for a 9.7 61 to 7.14 56 win.
“They played some very good footy,” Saints coach Nick Baird said of the Nomads.
“They are a very well drilled side. Zac (Economou) is doing a wonderful job with them.
“But for three and a half quarters we were outstanding.
“The Nomads might be unbeaten but this is quite an even competition.
“We’ve shown they are beatable but the last few weeks have shown the top four is quite even.”