Ground: Alexandra Oval, Ararat, Saturday, 2.20pm.
Last time they met: Round three, 2014. Ararat 13.12 (90) d Horsham Saints 12.8 (80).
FINALS contenders Ararat and Horsham Saints will face off in a important match for both clubs on Saturday.
The Rats and Saints both have six wins to their name and sit three games clear inside the top five.
A win for either side would see it move a step closer to securing a finals berth and to the competition’s top two sides, Warrack Eagles and Horsham.
Ararat coach David Hosking said his side was well aware of the challenge it faced on Saturday.
“Saints are a good team – they’re in a rich vein of form at the moment and we know they’re a quality opponent,” he said.
“I think it will be a really tough battle.
“It’s going to be about winning the pivotal moments and taking opportunities.”
The Rats claimed an upset win over the Saints earlier this year, but both sides have now confirmed themselves as serious contenders.
The visitor has won its past four and Ararat its past two, with both coming into the contest off five-day turnarounds.
Hosking believes defence will be the key for the Rats against a forward line containing three of the league’s top 15 goal-kickers in Gavin Kelm, Jacob Cooke-Harrison and Leslie Butler.
“I think it’s going to come down to how well we do defensively,” he said.
“We know what we’re capable offensively, but it’s going to be our ability to shut down the likes of Kelm and Cooke-Harrison, who can hurt you on the scoreboard.”
Defenders Brady Miller and Peter Thompson are sure to play important roles for the Rats, while Hosking said interleague representative Jake Williamson and small forward Tyler Cronin would almost definitely return from injury.
Key forward target Beau Cosson has kicked multiple goals in every game this season and will need to be marked closely – perhaps by Harry McLennan who manned Demons’ forward Jordyn Burke at the weekend.
For the Saints, Nathan Clough, Kyle O’Connor and skipper Alexander McRae will be full of confidence, as will ruckman Michael Rowe.
Rowe has been in superb touch and with Rats’ ruckman Dan Vearing to miss with injury, he could hold the key to a Saints’ victory.