North Coast Bulldogs left it late to register an opening-round 32-28 Laurie Daley Cup (under-18) victory over Northern Tigers at Wauchope on Saturday.
Five-eighth Shane Davis-Caldwell and winger Xavier Davidson both scored tries within four minutes of each other as the Bulldogs overcame a 24-16 halftime deficit.
But it was the performance of Blair Hamilton off the bench that saw him receive the accolades from not only coach Matt Freebairn, but his teammates as well.
"I think our strike from the bench was really important because our interchange players really provided a platform for us in the middle part of the game and Blair Hamilton took out the players player," Freebairn said.
"Our ability to stay in the game and fight was really pleasing as was our resilience and being able to take advantage of our opportunities when they arose."
Freebairn said the hard work they had put in during the pre-season had already paid dividends.
"In this competition it's anyone's game so you've got to be prepared to win in the last three minutes. They fought to the very end," he said.
"We've trained them to be resilient and stay in the fight no matter what."
The Bulldogs travel up the Pacific Highway this Saturday when they tackle Northern Rivers who suffered a 30-18 defeat to Macarthur Wests Tigers in the opening round.
Freebairn is aware of the danger the Titans possess after the two teams met in a trial game a few weeks ago.
"We're looking forward to the week ahead. That one's done and we got the two points so now we're moving forward to play the Titans," he said.
"Northern Rivers are a big, strong side and if you give them the ball and allow them to dictate the terms they'll be very hard to beat."
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