Hastings Valley Vikings have ended Port Macquarie Pirates' hopes of a top-two finish with a comfortable 31-14 victory at Stuart Park on Wednesday night (August 3).
Three days after Pirates made half a statement to the rest of the Upper Mid North Coast Rugby Union competition when they upset the Vikings, they were outmuscled by a side eager to bounce back.
Pirates coach Cameron Gray expected a backlash from the Vikings and that was what his team got.
"They're a well-drilled forward pack and if I'm being honest with myself and the players, they monstered us in the forwards and we didn't have the strength to repel them," he said.
"I don't think we were desperate enough; we were desperate on Saturday at Oxley and I think that reflected in our performance, but last night we felt we had conquered them. We just weren't there mentally.
"The differentiator was their forwards and they bashed us."
Gray conceded Pirates might have played Hastings Valley on an off-day, although he said some comments made on social media earlier during the week didn't help their cause.
"Players not associated with the group put statements up saying Vikings may be on the decline which I thought was counter-productive and I never believed for a second," he said.
"Hopefully a few of our guys are looking at themselves in the mirror today and are embarrassed with what they see."
Vikings co-coach Hamish Mccormack said it was pleasing his side had responded in style as they prepare for the Dave Mccormack Memorial Day on Saturday.
Oscar Maleli and Agapei Eukaliti were among their best.
"We've got a big forward pack who were all keen to rectify last weekend where they were matched or even outdone by the opposition," he said.
The loss 96 hours earlier could prove to be exactly what the Vikings need come the end of the season.
"No-one likes losing, but it might have put a bit more fire back into some of the boys' bellies. You'd rather lose a game at that time of year than later on."
Hastings Valley will now play Southern Cross University in successive weeks with the two teams locked in for the major semi-final on August 13.
"We will end up playing them two weeks in a row so you probably don't want to give them a sniff the week before the finals," Mccormack said.
"You want to ensure you're playing your best footy from now on in. It's a massive weekend for my family and the club."
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