THE in-form Muswellbrook Rams will face their biggest test this weekend after an impressive 32-20 triumph over the Murrurundi Mavericks at Wilson Memorial Park on Saturday.
The Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League reserve grade outfit faces competition pacesetters Merriwa Magpies on the back of three successive victories.
In the past month, the Rams have accounted for the Denman Devils 44-0, Aberdeen Tigers 32-12 and, now, the Mavericks to put themselves into the premiership frame again.
"It was good to come away from Murrurundi with the win," captain-coach Mick Henry said.
"Although we should have put the cleaners through them; we leaked a few points in the latter stages.
"And, we'll work on that at training.
"We've got to play Merriwa [at home] in round eight, so we needed that result to stay in touch with the top four.
"The Magpies haven't been beaten in 2019 - we'll have to be at our best."
Henry, who led the way alongside Bayley Carter, Luke Cameron, Mitchell Niperess, Jason McKay, Wade McKenzie and Caleb Robson-Pearce, admitted the Rams were a "work in progress".
"We're beginning to gel as a team," he said.
"I guess we were thrown together at the start of the year; and we didn't play any trials.
"Not having a side in 'firsts' was tough, too.
"But, everyone's stuck in there.
"We're definitely building for the future.
"At the moment, it's important to nurture the under-18s into the seniors.
"I'm sure we'll reap the benefits next season."
The Mavericks, to their credit, pushed the Rams from the kick-off, even though young centre Kane Cubillo touched down early for a 4-0 lead.
Murrurundi responded through tries to hard-working prop Andrew Dykes and flying winger Josh Watson, who also landed a conversion, to hit the front 10-4.
Muswellbrook levelled up at 10-all, via a four-pointer to fullback Jacob Button and a Cubillo goal.
Robson-Pearce and Henry then crossed over, in quick succession, to give the Rams a handy 18-10 advantage at the break.
The visitors extended that margin to 22-10 when the skipper evaded a couple of defenders.
For the rest of the showdown, the two combatants went point-for-point in the second half.
Winger Luke Van Roon and hooker McKay added their names to Muswellbrook tryscorer's list, while centre Lauchan Duwakin and fullback Alex Kelaher gave Murrurundi's vocal supporters something to cheer about.
It was a different story for the hosts in league tag.
The Mavettes beat the Ramettes 14-4.