Maitland Pickers coach Matt Lantry has hailed his team spirit after a huge defensive effort to hold out Hills Bulls for the final 10 minutes of the game for a memorable 22-18 in Sydney on Sunday.
"It's certainly one of the better wins I've had as a coach," a proud Lantry said of his side after they survived five successive sets on their line before the final whistle.
It was all the more impressive as the Pickers had to contend with a disrupted week of training and the loss of halfback Brock Lamb, front-rower James Taylor and back-rower Henry Penn.
"I couldn't describe it other than as a win of great desire, great character and belief within the playing group.
"We had a bit of a shitty week, poor preparation we changed training from Tuesday to Wednesday because of the weather and that affected a few blokes from being able to attend because of work commitments.
"We trained Friday and had a couple ruled out late and on top of that you've then got to jump on a bus and travel to Sydney
"We had every reason to say this week it might be a little too hard but the 17 blokes who got their shot certainly held up their gloves.
"It was a super, super win."
Lamb was ruled out with a hamstring twinge during the week.
"We felt given we had the bye next weekend it was better to give him an extended break to get over it rather than risking him," Lantry said.
Taylor was always going to miss this weekend and Penn was a late withdrawal for family reasons.
Reeve Howard and James Bradley came into the squad. In the reshuffle, fullback Daniel Langbridge went to halfback, Matt Soper-Lawler replaced him at fullback and Bradley started at left centre. Marvin Filipo came into the back-row off the bench.
Maitland opened the game in a blaze of attacking glory to lead 18-0 after 20 minutes with tries to Matt Soper-Lawer, Daniel Langbridge and James Bradley.
All three were converted by Chad O'Donnell
Soper-Lawler continued his try-scoring exploits from Queensland with a four-pointer nine minutes into the game.
Five minutes later Langbridge scored under the posts and in a brilliant solo effort at the 20 minute mark, James Bradley regathered his own charge down and also scored between the uprights to go into the drink-break 18-0 up.
Billed as the clash of the President's Cup's undefeated heavyweights, it appeared as if Maitland may run away with the game.
However, Hills struck back in the 24th and 35 minutes with converted tries and kicked a penalty goal on the stroke of half-time to trail 14-18 at the break.
Lantry said it was a disappointing lapse in the second 20 minutes and it was an area that would need to be addressed.
"We had dominated possession and play in that first 20 minutes and it was just reversed in the second 20 minutes," he said.
"It would have been OK to concede one try and go into half-time 18-6, but to let two tries and a penalty undid our good work."
Live-wire wing Willis Alantini gave Maitland some breathing space when he scored an unconverted try 10 minutes after the break to give the visitors a 22-14 lead.
But would it be enough? The question became even more pressing in the 55th minute when the Bulls crossed for a four-pointer.
The unconverted try ended up being the last points of the game with neither side was able to add to their score despite Hills being camped on the Maitland line for the final 10 minutes.