GROUP 3 are through to the under-15 Country Championship finals on the Central Coast despite a 10-all draw with Maitland in Port Macquarie on Sunday.
In a hard-fought final, the Pride booked their place at Morry Breen Oval courtesy of a countback system that saw them progress due to scoring the first try.
Coach Doug Ferguson admitted they didn't play to the standards they had become accustomed to, but it was still good enough.
"It wasn't at our level we normally play at," he said.
"We drifted away from our structures during bits and pieces of the games, but each game we showed grit and determination which is basically what got us the win."
They went through undefeated, overcoming a slow start in the opening game where they trailed 18-6 in the shadows of halftime before they cruised to a 36-18 victory.
"We started pretty scratchy and I spoke to the boys at halftime about sticking to the plan and defensively moving up together, pushing for each other and I said 'no more points'," Ferguson said.
I would have loved to have gone through as outright winners, but we're through to next week so that's the main thing.Group 3 under-15 coach Doug Ferguson
"They clicked into gear in the second half and away they went."
Group 3 then defeated Group 18 12-10 and then Group 2 28-24 to book their place in the final.
While disappointed not to win the northern zone Country Championship title outright, Ferguson felt it was still a fitting result.
"We probably should have won outright, but we drifted away from our sets and the processes we set out to do, but it's better than losing," he said.
"I would have loved to have gone through as outright winners, but we're through to next week so that's the main thing."
Maitland scored two tries to one, but it was Levi Doran's first half four-pointer for Group 3 that ultimately proved the difference.
The coach was most impressed about how his side put local rivalries to one side to combine for a team goal.
"What pleased me most was their guts and determination," he said.
"They play for clubs that have rivalries against each other, but they are able to put that aside and focus on a team-first mentality and really bust their arse for each other.
"That's what I'm most pleased with."
Fullback Ethan Ferguson and five-eighth Mhaliki Mercy were again two of Group 3's best over the weekend.
While Ferguson's hat-trick was the difference in their semi-final win over Group 2, the coach said everyone played their role.
"Without your forwards taking the ball forward and laying the platform, (the backs) don't have the room to do what they do," he said.
"Without other positions running the right lines and doing their role as well to create that bit of space for them they can't do what they do."
The coach knows his side will need to be better - especially with their completion rates - to compete with the more physical teams like NRL Victoria at the weekend.
"We've got a bit of work to do to be better again for next weekend," Ferguson said.
"We're playing NRL Victoria who are going to have some big bodies; we just have to be up to the task."
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