WAUCHOPE coach Anthony Boyd rates Wingham as the best side the Blues have played in this season's Group Three Rugby League competition.
Boyd was speaking after his team's 20-10 loss in a bruising encounter at Wingham.
"Wingham's the benchmark,'' Boyd declared.
"Hats off to them, they're a well structured footy side and they're all working hard for each other. They're the best we've played this season. We have our work cut out, but hopefully we'll be able to get them in the finals.''
A draw to Taree City and a loss to Wingham has resulted in Wauchope dropping out of the top two for the first time this year. However, Boyd remains optimistic there's good times ahead, although he cautioned that the Blues do have some work to do.
"That was probably the highest quality footy the boys have produced this year - especially in the first half - it was lightning,'' he said.
"We improved today from the last couple of weeks but we still have a bit of work to do. We lack a bit of polish; we just can't get an end to our sets and that's something we'll have to address.
"We need to build pressure. That'll improve our football and we'll get positive results.''
We need to build pressure. That'll improve our football and we'll get positive resultsWauchope coach Anthony Boyd
Boyd agreed a try to Wingham centre Kurt Lewis just before halftime was a crucial moment in the game. The Blues had been down 8-0 but the converted try saw them head to the sheds trailing by 14.
"That hurt us,'' Boyd said.
"Then in the second half we had a couple of tries that I thought were tries, called back. That's footy, you take the good with the bad, but if we had gotten one of them we were right back into it.''
Boyd said he still has three players still on the injured list.
"But we have a squad of 20 and we're confident enough to use all of them. We still have three players to come back into the side, but they're probably six weeks away yet. They've been long term injuries and they'll be out until the back end of the year.''
Boyd had plenty of good things to say about rookie fullback Tony Thompson, who was Wauchope's best against the Tigers.
"Tony's only a 17-year-old kid and it's his first year playing grade,'' he said.
"He's been absolutely outstanding for us and he's growing and growing with confidence every game. I thought he was great today.''