PORT Macquarie Sharks believe their 26-24 defeat to Wauchope could prove to be a turning point in their season.
While they didn’t get the result they would have liked, they pushed a tough Blues outfit every step of the way.
With three minutes remaining they had their chance to steal it, but ultimately inexperience and a lack of composure when the game was on the line cost them.
Despite having six regular first graders missing, Kyle Ellison, Harry Pensini, Oliver Nosworthy and Koby Smith all gave captain-coach Jake Hawkins something to think about.
“Our young blokes were our best,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins refused to blame the absence of Harley Gore, Joey Cudmore, Mitch Smith, Ben Kirkland, Tom Maguire and Mitch Wilbow as an excuse.
They also lost James Kelly during the match to a knee injury.
“Everyone harps on that we had blokes out, but that’s no excuse for us,” Hawkins said.
We were there, we should have won, we could have won it, but we didn’t.Port Sharks captain-coach Jake Hawkins
“We were there, we should have won, we could have won it, but we didn’t.
“There are a lot of positives to come out of the game.”
Wauchope jumped out to an early 10-0 lead before the Sharks dragged themselves back into the contest to trail 16-12 at the break.
“I’ll take my hat off to the boys for the first 10 minutes because we had to fight through the sh*t,” Hawkins said.
“We got through that, got back into the arm wrestle and showed a bit of pride in our jersey.”
Blues five-eighth Aaron Ison directed the Blues around the park, while halves partner Jayden Sargent was a constant threat.
English backrower Jamie Tracey was strong on the edges and asked plenty of questions of the Sharks defence.
Blues captain Mat Bird said Tracey was the type of player they had been missing in the last couple of seasons.
“Our big back rower came back after a few problems over in England and he was awesome for us,” Bird said.
We believe we can be top three contenders this year and hopefully get a home semi and see what comes of that.Wauchope Blues captain Mat Bird
“He just brings that bit of mongrel of wanting to get up and hit blokes.”
Bird said it was the type of win that could create some momentum for the club.
“We’re ready to make our mark,” he said.
“We believe we can be top three contenders this year and hopefully get a home semi and see what comes of that.
“There’s definitely a bit of belief there because we haven’t been so successful over the last couple of years.
“We still haven’t got our full side on the paddock yet so we’re looking forward to when that happens.”
The Wauchope captain admitted their lapses in concentration during matches was still a concern.
“That’s been our problem the last few weeks – we’ve been getting out to good starts and then dropping off,” he said.
“Luckily we were good enough to overcome that.”