PORT Macquarie Pirates coach Nigel Harding offered a glowing appraisal of cross-town rivals Hastings Valley following the Vikings 61-7 belting of his side on Saturday night.
"No one's going to get within cooee of them; everyone's basically playing for second," he said.
"They're solid in attack, solid in defence, they don't do anything special, they don't do anything fancy, they're just relentless."
Harding and his side will now have to return to the drawing board and try to construct a game plan that could trouble the Vikings in the major semi-final.
They had no answers after an encouraging first 15 minutes, but the coach still feels his side can finish second on the ladder.
No one's going to get within cooee of them; everyone's basically playing for second.Port Macquarie Pirates coach Nigel Harding
"I'm still positive we want to be second and play them in the major semi and then hopefully play them in the grand final," he said.
"But unless you are extremely fit and naturally aggressive, you're not going to match it with them.
"You can't pretend to be aggressive and that's where we're at at the moment. That's no disrespect to anybody; the Vikings are just relentless."
The Pirates coach said the key to matching it with the Vikings was "through enthusiasm and at the moment they've got a mortgage on enthusiasm both in defence and attack."
"They've got self-belief that no one's going to get within cooee of them and for that reason they go on their merry way punishing teams," he said.
Following intermittent showers late in the week, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council allowed the match to be moved to Regional Stadium from Oxley Oval after it was closed for the weekend on Thursday.
Vikings coach Andrew Kable was pleased with the response he received from his side after their below par performance in last week's victory over Coffs Harbour.
"The team wasn't overly impressed with their performance last week against Coffs Harbour and we had a pretty sound week at training," he said.
"It was about playing the footy we want to play and not letting other teams influence the way we do it.
Pirates are always super tough at the start of games and they really brought it to our side; it was the hit out we needed.Hastings Valley Vikings coach Andrew Kable
"If that's how we want to play, then we have to be dominant and Pirates are always super tough at the start of games and they really brought it to our side; it was the hit out we needed."
Winger Rohan Toff crossed for a double while Adam McCormack, Sam Browning and David Tunstead were also impressive.
"It was the best game of footy I've seen Tunny play in five years - he had a blinder (on Saturday night)," Kable said.
"The Pirates gave him plenty of attention in defence and he was up to the challenge."
With three weeks still remaining before the finals, the Vikings have now secured a home major semi-final and the right to again be the first team into the grand final.
They also have no significant injury worries.
"Every club plays with injuries, but we don't have any major injuries," Kable said.
"We do have some players unavailable over the next few weeks so guys will come up."
What else is happening in sport?
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, SIGN UP HERE.