Group 11 2017: Forwards battle likely to decide clash between Forbes Magpies and Dubbo Macquarie

POWER: Kepu Nathan made a real impact off the bench for Macquarie last weekend and is set to start in Sunday's clash with Forbes. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

POWER: Kepu Nathan made a real impact off the bench for Macquarie last weekend and is set to start in Sunday's clash with Forbes. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

The Forbes Magpies have proved time and time again in the past 18 months once the forwards get a roll on they are near unstoppable.

Halting that momentum is one of the most difficult challenges in Group 11, proven last season when the Magpies forwards, led by Zac Merritt, Ben Maguire and captain-coach Jake Grace, powered the side to premiership glory.

Macquarie Raiders co-coach Steve McLellan is well aware this weekend is another task for his side in what is a testing start to the season.

After defeating a physical Nyngan side in round one, the Raiders went down to a rejuvenated Parkes last weekend. The round three clash at Forbes’ Spooner Oval will be followed by a derby battle against fierce rivals CYMS.

“Some people say it is a tough start but we view it the other way. You play these games for the challenge,” McLellan said, before speaking about the threat of Forbes’ forward pack.

“Their game is built around what they achieve through the middle so it’s our job to take that away.”

You play these games for the challenge. - Macquarie coach Steve McLellan

Last week’s loss to the Spacemen was a frustrating one for the Raiders with McLellan going as far as saying he “couldn’t believe we lost it”.

But the one positive for the men in sky blue was the fact the bulk of Parkes’ tries were scored out wide, winger Fletcher Strong bagged a first half treble, or from kicks.

Allowing 30 points was “not acceptable” according to McLellan but he has been pleased by his side’s improvement around the ruck and defence in the middle of the field.

“We’ve tidied up things in the middle and that’s a strong area for Forbes so that gives us confidence,” McLellan said.

Also boosting Macquarie’s chances in the battle up front is the form of newcomers Eroni Turaga and Kepu Nathan.

The hulking Turaga has improved each game while Nathan made an immediate impact of the bench in his debut last weekend, with his powerful defence and ability to get up and play the ball quickly a real boost.

“He (Nathan) is only going to get better too. The early sings are really good,” McLellan said.

McLellan also revealed Laberato Tauoqooqo will debut in the centres at Forbes, with Luke Gale unavailable due to representative school rugby league commitments, while Tom Magann will also be missing.

Much is expected of the Fijian Tauoqooqo, with McLellan hopeful his clearances would be completed in time for him to take on the defending premiers.

Sunday’s action begins with the League Tag at 11am. The first grade match is expected to kick off at 2.30pm.

The story Up front and through the middle the focus first appeared on Daily Liberal.

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