The Kurri Kurri Bulldogs left their charge too late going down 26-16 to Central Newcastle at St John Oval on Sunday.
The Bulldogs dominated the second half, but the damage had been done in a disappointing first 40 minutes when the Butcherboys scored an unanswered 20 points.
Kurri Kurri coach Ron Griffiths said the Bulldogs had been outplayed with intensity, pressure and willingness to dig in for the battle in the first half.
“Central didn’t drop off in intensity at all, we just matched and bettered them in those areas we had been so poor and outscored them 16-6 in the second half,” Griffiths said.
“We knew in preparing that we had to be switched on from the start as Central have plenty of experience and talent and would be ready for a dog fight after their win against Maitland the week before.
“But they were all over us in the key facets of the game in particular intensity and willingness to dig in deep for the battle.
“To the boys credit, they took stock of their performance at half-time and came out with fire in their battle.
“Unfortunately, we had given up too big a lead and a team like Central is not going to roll over and give up two points.
“It’s good to be able to take a positive finish into the bye weekend.”
Griffiths said the Bulldogs missed inspirational forward Michael Steele, who was serving a one match ban.
However, he said front-rower Kahn Juhnke stood up to be the Bulldogs best across the entire game.