The Cessnock Goannas turned in a strong second-half to overrun Central Newcastle 24-20 after trailing 6-16 at half-time in Saturday's trial at Cessnock Sportsground.
Young dummy-half Nick Lawrence, giant forward Alex Mammone and Blake Andrews led the second-half recovery which will give the Goannas plenty of confidence going into this Saturday's Newcastle RL season opener against Maitland at Baddeley Park.
"I was a bit disappointed at half-time that we had made some poor decisions with and without the ball which told on the scoreboard," Cessnock coach Todd Edwards said after the match.
"I wasn't disappointed at all with their effort, just their execution at times which meant we had to defend a lot in the first half.
"We were a lot better in the second half."
Edwards said Lawrence and Mammone were inspirational in the second half, particularly in a kick and chase play which led to the try to take the Goannas into the lead.
"Nick is just a great thinker, it was such a smart footy play by him and Mammones. The kick and then the chase to pin them down at their line.
"We got an even share of the footy in the second half which told in the end on the scoreboard.
"They built some pressure on us in the first half and we got our turn in the second half.
"I was really happy with that back 40 minutes, but we need to put that together for 80.
"The Pickers are coming here to do what they did to us in the first game last year (a 36-0 hammering at Maitland Sportsground).
"We've got to be better and if we don't improve we will be chasing again like we did that day. But I'm confident we can do better."
Edwards has plenty of selection worries this week, with Knights player Hayden Loughrey having a strong game and likely to be available again for selection and first choice half Steve Waetford, forward generals Brendon Hlad and Marvin Filipo and star fullback Harry O'Brien all back.
"I've got some selection headaches. I've got 21 players for 17 jobs," he said.
"There was a kid there who came up from the twos, who was outstanding, young Blake Andrews so the pressure is on to earn a spot.
"I wanted a top 17 that you had to earn a spot in. That's what we're trying to create here that you't got to earn everything.
"I thought we were good in patches. If we put it together we are going to be very competitive."
Edwards said after a poor start he was very please with the Goannas kicking game.
"The kicking game really improved in the last 20 minutes. It was poor to start and we spoke about that and our desire to build pressure in the second half and I thought we did really well in doing that," he said.
"We speak all the time about pressure will equal points. If you continue to build pressure at any level of footy you will get results.
A big day at the Cessnock Sports Ground kicks off at 10am with the Ladies Blues Tag. It is followed by under-19s at 11am, open age at 12.15pm, reserves at 1.30pm and first grade at 3pm.
All members and guests are welcome to join the team for the post game presentation at Cessnock Leagues Club