Kempsey Cannonballs coach Carl Thurgood admits his side will need to play at their best if they are to upset the Hastings Valley Vikings in Port Macquarie this Saturday.
The Vikings have worked their way to the top of the table on the back of some dominant victories while the Cannonballs have begun to find some form over the past month.
"It's going to be a tough game, they are leading the competition and there's a reason for that," Thurgood told the Argus.
"They have been able to put a large score on all the teams they have played this year and we are expecting a challenge.
"They are a very physical and large side and they are always up and in your face. They are the best drilled team in the competition and they are very good at what they do."
Thurgood will use the match as an opportunity to identify how much progress the side has made.
"It will be good to see how we go and determine how much we have developed over the last few weeks," he said.
Five players from the Cannonballs first grade side represented the Mid North Coast Axemen at the NSW Country Championships last weekend and Thurgood wants to see those players lead from the front.
"Playing at a representative level and high standard rugby brings out the best in you and I saw the four other players reach a new level at the Country Championships," Thurgood said.
"I will be looking for those guys to bring that level of intensity to the game this weekend and lead from the front for the other players in our team."
The Cannonballs will be without five-eighth Heath Lancaster and outside back Corey Gale this Saturday.
Caeden Allan, who played well in his first start at five-eighth, will cover for Lancaster while Tim Sports returns to replace Gale in the backs.
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