MAITLAND coach Matt Lantry described it as "our best performance of the year by far" as they overpowered Central 30-6 and joined their opponents on top of the Newcastle Rugby League ladder.
The Pickers piled on 30 unanswered points after conceding first at St John Oval on Sunday and having gone to the break at 6-all the visitors crossed four times in the second half as well as keeping the Butcher Boys scoreless.
Maitland now sit alongside Central on 14 competition points at the midway mark of the 2021 season, but the Pickers have a superior for-and-against record and have a game in hand.
It was the sixth win in-a-row for Maitland and ended Central's run of seven straight victories.
Lantry rated this one the highest.
"It was our best performance of the year by far," Lantry told the Newcastle Herald.
"And probably one of the best performances I've been involved in in my two years here [at Maitland]. We had some good wins in the President's Cup [statewide competition last year], but that was a thorough, professional, 80-minute performance."
Butcher Boys winger Mao Uta, who was helped from the field in the second half with a suspected knee dislocation, landed the opening try in the 12th minute.
Following a tight tussle between both teams, Pickers five-eighth Chad O'Donnell replied next to the posts nearing half-time when he pounced on a deflection from a grubber.
It was virtually one-way traffic after the change of ends with Sam Anderson and James Bradley both making the scoresheet before returning centre Matt Soper-Lawler nabbed a double, including an intercept.
Lantry gave a nod to the kicking display of halfback Brock Lamb, especially in the second half.
"I thought Lamby's kicking game was great and he managed that second half beautifully, NRL quality with what he delivered there," he said.
"Then we were good enough to win the field position battle and then get some opportunities and score some nice tries."
Lantry said Maitland answered internal criticism of recent displays.
"We've been pretty critical of how we've been playing and I though they responded well," he said.
Central halfback Luke Walsh was put on report for a high tackle in the closing stages.
Elsewhere on Sunday and all three bottom-placed sides clocked up their second wins of the season.
Lakes beat Kurri Kurri 30-16 at Cahill Oval, Wests upset hosts The Entrance 32-14 and Souths came back to down Wyong 24-12 at Townson Oval.
Earlier on Saturday and visitors Cessnock overcame Macquarie 40-26 at Lyall Peacock Field. This result sees the Goannas draw level with Maitland and Central in equal first while the Scorpions stay in fourth.
LADDER: Maitland, Central, Cessnock 14; Macquarie 10; The Entrance, Wyong 8; Kurri 6; Wests, Souths, Lakes 4.