It was the perfect storm of ingredients that led to Kempsey Cannonballs' upset 41-33 defeat of Hastings Valley Vikings on Saturday.
Seven regular first graders missing, a near three-week break between games courtesy of a bye and then a break for the June long weekend, followed by challenging conditions at Crescent Head.
But Vikings co-coach Adam McCormack refused to use it as an excuse.
"We had had a long time off, but won't take anything away from them because their big boys kept getting over the advantage line and our young fellas fellas didn't know how to stop the momentum," he said.
"Credit to them, they played well. We kept getting close to them, then they'd get a try against run of play."
The Cannonballs victory was a decade in the making. McCormack can't remember ever losing to them.
"I knew this year would be a close competition and we've lost to Pirates and now Kempsey," he said.
The defeat ended a six-game undefeated run, but only a last-round trip to Coffs Harbour prevents the Vikings from setting up camp in Port Macquarie for the rest of the season.
"If we were going to lose a game, that was the one for us to lose," McCormack said.
"We're in Port for the next six weeks and only have a last-round trip against Marlins. As long as we stay injury free, we have no excuse not to build momentum and head into the finals confident."
What else is happening in news, sport?
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: