Sudden death mentality starts two weeks early for Marist this year, and if they want to be part of the Fox Memorial Premiership post-season nothing but a pair of victories to finish the season will do.
With three points and a whopping points for and against percentage sitting between the Saints and fourth-placed Glenora, Marist face must-win clashes against Otahuhu on Saturday and Howick next week.
But the central Auckland club will need to navigate plenty of obstacles, none more so than their crippling injury toll which currently has them without some of their most-experienced campaigners.
“We have an unbelievable injury toll at the moment. Last week we had two guys making their Fox debut after coming up from the U20 team, and our two most-experienced players at the club are out injured,” Marist coach Brendan Douglas told kiwileaguecentral.com.
“It has been like that all year, we unfortunately haven’t been competitive against the top three teams, but last weekend the boys just believed they could do it which was great to see.
“We got pretty banged around last weekend against Mt Albert. The physio is doing miracle work this week, but it’s no easy feat at the moment.”
With Glenora playing the earlier game last week – and getting up for a convincing 46-24 victory over Mangere East – Marist knew they would need a win or draw against Mt Albert to keep their play-off hopes alive.
In the end the Saints produced a gutsy showing to steal a point in a 24-all draw, with Douglas admitting it took a special effort in trying circumstances.
“To use a cliche, we threw more than the kitchen sink at them, we threw the entire club grandstand at them in that draw,” he said.
“We knew by the time our game kicked off last week that we needed to win or draw in the game against Mt Albert, and we got in for the draw.
“It was a huge result in terms of confidence and it’s a good result for our senior boys who are pushing through this part of the season.
“Toleafoa Leaupepe has been huge for us through this period.
“He is the biggest player in the competition I think, but he has also been labelled the most unfit player in the competition and all that type of stuff. But his attitude and ability to rise to the occasion and change the game has been phenomenal.”
Marist take on relegation-threatened Otahuhu in the early Maori TV game on Saturday, with kick-off at 11am at Prince Edward Park in Papakura.