Maitland Pickers captain PJ Ellis and Billy Towers turned back the clock and almost turned the tide to cause an upset against reigning premiers Lakes United.
The 32-18 loss was not a true reflection of the closeness of the match in front of an appreciative Pickers Old Boys contingent.
Ellis and Towers showed the way and the young Pickers led, but the team ultimately let down by poor ball security.
Three tries against the flow of play was the difference on the scoreboard, but the first 10 minutes of the second half was the telling period.
“I thought straight after half-time we were terrible, we couldn’t control the ball,” Pickers coach Trevor Ott said.
“We didn’t complete any of the first four sets. As soon as we completed a set we scored points.
“You just can’t win like that. They are a quality side and I think our completion rate was below 50 per cent in the second half.
“I thought we were really positive in the first half, our defence on the line was excellent.
“But we started to play catch-up footy in the second half and we struggled with fitness a bit at the end with all the tackling we had to do.
“But there were some really good performances.
“I think the boys are confident if that’s the best in the competition can throw at us then we are going to be competitive.”
Ott said Ellis and Towers had been terrific working with their young teammates and showed the way on the field.
“Billy and PJ are just competitors. They have been the heart and soul of this club for a long time,” he said.
“They’re winners they know what it takes and they provide a very good lead for our younger players.
“There’s a lot to build on.”
Ott was pleased with the performance of his halves and praised centre George O’Brien for his performance.
“I love what he (O’Brien) has brought to the club, he is an excitement machine and will be a big part of what we do.
“I think our kicking game was pretty good overall, but we did pay for one or two bouncing over the dead-ball line and giving them seven tackles.
Ott said the Seagulls’ experience and class prevailed at crucial points.
“I think the difference in the end for us was obviously ball control and the class of (hooker) Chris Adams and the kicking game of (halfback Brad) Murray. He got a lot of repeat sets against us.
“Those repeat sets, although they may not score off all of them, they hurt you at the back end.”
Seagulls coach Dean Noonan was impressed by Maitland’s effort.
“Maitland really aimed up,” Noonan said. “It was a good initiation for us into the process of defending a premiership.”