THEY may have been soundly beaten on the scoreboard, but the Port Macquarie Pirates are still taking plenty of positives out of Saturday's trial against their namesakes from Tamworth.
The Port side went down 45-5 at Stuart Park against the slick Central North rugby finalists, but coach Stewart Robertson was still pleased with his team's performance.
The Pirates were blown away in the third quarter, but that was when they had most of their reserve graders on the field.
Earlier, the hosts hit the lead before being pegged back to 7-5 at the first break.
It was 12-5 at the break, and the Port Pirates conceded just 10 points in the final quarter.
"It wasn't too bad at all," Robertson said.
The Pirates played with the wind in the second half, but didn't use it to their advantage as much as Robertson would have liked.
Four regular first graders were missing: Robertson didn't have the services of Bleddyn Gant, Chris Geary, Lachlan Bassett and Nic Webb.
Meanwhile, the opposition, who won the Armidale Sevens the previous weekend, were simply too good.
"They had a pretty competitive side," Robertson said.
A bonus for the host team was the performance of Irish second rower David Kingston.
"He really stepped up to the mark," Robertson said.
Hooker Pat Hourigan was outstanding for three quarters.
"To play 60 mins at hooker against a pack like that was a great effort," Robertson said.
The praise didn't stop there.
"Our scrum was pretty solid all game," Robertson said.
The Pirates' season opener is next weekend against Grafton.