The Maitland Pickers under-19 and Blues Tag teams are just one win away from guaranteeing themselves semi-final spots after strong victories on Saturday.
The Pickers women beat Cessnock 34-0 on Saturday and they sit second with 16 points on the Blues Tag table with two rounds remaining, while the under-19s had a comfortable 34-18 win in the end against Macquarie Scorpions.
The Pickers first tier team pushed second-placed Cessnock for two-thirds of the match but were overrun in the end going down 34-16. Maitland's tier two team had the bye.
Unbeaten Wyong beat South Newcastle 30-20 and Wests beat Lakes in a 19-18 thriller to move equal on 12 points with Souths (third). Lakes host Souths and Wests play Wyong next week, while the Pickers are away to Central and the Goannas have a bye in a round that should decide the top four in tier one..
The top four is still open in Blues Tag. The Pickers are two points behind South Newcastle and two ahead of Central with Wyong and Wests still in the running for spots in the finals.
Wests, who collect two points for a bye next weekend, must win a catch-up game against Lakes and their final game against Nelson Bay to stay in contention.
The Pickers have one of the poorer points for and against records in the top five and will need one win in their final two games against Central (away) and Wyong (home) or a loss by one of the three teams below them to secure a place in their first semi-finals series.
The run home for the opponents are: Souths: Lakes (a), Central (h); Central: Pickers (h), Souths (a); Wyong: Kurri (Cessnock); Pickers (a); Wests: Lakes (h), bye; Nelson Bay (h).
Finishing order will be important as first plays fourth in one final and second and third in the other with the winners progressing to the grand final on Sunday, October 18.
Maitland's under-19s finished over the top of the Macquarie Scorpions to run out 34-18 winners in front of a big crowd at the Maitland Sportsground.
The Pickers are in great form after beating competition leaders South Newcastle 20-18 two weeks ago.
Souths remains a game clear on top of the under-19 ladder, with Lakes, Central and Maitland all on 14 points and Wests still mathematically a chance on 10 points.
The Pickers run home begins with Central at St John Oval next Saturday before hosting Wyong in the final round.
Souths face top-four rivals Lakes and Central and Lakes finish their season with an away game against Macquarie.
Wests are poised to pounce on any slip-ups by the top four with a guaranteed two points for a bye next week before they host sixth placed Nelson Bay in the final round.
Nelson Bay jumped three places on the ladder with an upset 20-16 win against Kurri Kurri on Saturday, who slipped to eighth just ahead of Macquarie.
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