The Maitland Blacks are quietly seething about the lack of protection for their players from high shots which left at least three players with cuts and bruises to their heads and only one Wanderers played sin-binned.
The Blacks were still in the game trailing 22-7 when Max Stafford and Marcus Christensen were sin-binned for professional fouls. The weight of numbers counted too heavily and Maitland were relegated to next week's elimination final with a 35-19 loss.
All up the Blacks had three players sin-binned for professional fouls while only Wanderers forward Dan Kevill was sin-binned Hamilton picking up a yellow card for a high shot on Maitland's Travis Brooke, who stooped low to pick up a bouncing ball.
It was Kevill's third yellow card and he will miss next week's major semi-final against Hamilton, but Maitland Blacks coach Matt Thomas will ask the club to consider whether to cite him for further action over the incident involving Brooke.
"We have a lot of blokes who are battered and bruised. There were a lot of cheap shots from the opposition and I will talk to the club about what to do about that," Thomas said.
"I thought the refereeing was as bad as the way we played, but we can't blame them for the mistakes we made.
"We have to cop the loss on the chin and move on from here.
"We are good enough to win the title, it's just up to us to make sure it happens."
Wanderers' defence was excellent and proved the difference in the end, particularly during Kevill's absence when they defended their line for 10 minutes.
Thomas said handling errors and forced play cost the Blacks of the chance to bank points from a number of excellent opportunities to score.
"When we had the ball we looked exciting, we looked dangerous and were able to stroll into holes. But silly mistakes, forced plays cost us dearly," he said.
"When we did we really created some opportunities.
"You just can't make that many mistakes at this level.
"At the end we just made too many mistakes to win a final, there is no hiding the facts.
When you are playing with 13 or 14 men for 40 minutes at this level of the game you are always going to struggle to win At this level you have to have everyone on the field.
"We didn't get the flow on we needed today. We conceded three early tries through our own mistakes and were always chasing the game.
"It's just backs against the wall now, we know what to do and I believe we can do it."
Maitland had the bye in the final round and, with the first week of the finals being postponed, they hadn't played for three weeks and it showed.
Captain Carl Manu tried to the lift them, Nick Davidson was also strong and Lachlan Bradford threatened but they lacked sharpness and a tough edge.
Maitland will now meet the winner of Sunday's elimination semi-final between Merewether and Lake Macquarie.
The Blacks are in action today with second grade taking on University of Newcastle (1.40pm, third grade meets Singleton (12.20pm) and the women's team plays Merewether Carlton (4.45pm) in elimination finals.
Maitland's 4th Grade side is off to the grand final after defeating Waratah 26-7 on Friday night. They will now play Merewether next Friday night at No.2 sportsground in a replay of the 2017 and 2018 grand ginals with the Blacks looking to go back-to-back premiers.