Port City took another significant step towards hosting the Group 3 rugby league major semi-final with a comfortable 24-8 win over Port Macquarie on Saturday (August 6).
Something would have to go horribly wrong over the last month of the competition to prevent the ladder-leading Breakers from hosting second-placed Forster-Tuncurry on September 3 or 4.
While the Breakers are four points clear of the Hawks with four rounds remaining, the Sharks are now only one point ahead of fifth-placed Wingham. The top four teams progress to the post-season.
From the moment Port City front-rower Tyler Roberts wrestled his way into the in-goal to open the scoring after 11 minutes on Saturday, the Breakers were in cruise control.
Fellow front-rower Richie Roberts finished with two tries, while Dan Dumas also claimed a four-pointer in the four-tries-to-two victory.
The Sharks were gallant in defeat in a performance that was a marked improvement on their error-riddled 31-16 loss to Wingham last weekend.
Captain Mitch Wilbow was their best and he lamented a lack of execution from his team when opportunities arose.
"They took their opportunities and we didn't - it's as simple as that," he said.
"The effort was there, it's just the execution that let us down in the end."
Wilbow said fatigue played a part in a lot of the Sharks' mistakes throughout the match which meant they couldn't build or maintain pressure.
"That's what happens when the game is so fast... fatigue comes into it and both teams made errors in both halves, but they made the least and they won so hats off to them," he said.
"When they get a roll on... it's just hard to stop. We tried to swing the momentum when we could, but hats off to their forward pack. They were better."
The Sharks are now nervously looking over their shoulder at the fifth-placed Tigers who defeated Taree City on Saturday to move within one point.
And while Wilbow felt his team could match it with the Breakers, they had to do it for the entire game and not 20-minute spurts.
"We've got to stop pushing passes and stuff that we don't need to do for that extra 10 metres and play the long game instead of the short game," he said.
Breakers captain-coach Richie Roberts acknowledged there was nothing special about the way they played the game.
A focus on giving away less errors and a high completion rate was the key.
"We know what we're capable of when we stick to a game plan and it really showed. There was no panic; everyone knew their job and what they had to do," he said.
"It just showed how strong we can be when we're on our game. Our ball control was a lot better; we completed a lot more sets and simplified it this week."
It was the second-lowest total the Breakers had conceded all season, only behind the six points Macleay Valley scored on July 24.
The guidance provided by hard-heads Chris Piper and Dan Dumas who were reunited in the second-row was another key.
"They do the simple things; they don't do the flashy stuff, they bring guidance and direction for our middles and the young halves they're running off," Roberts said.
"That experience is what we lacked last week with Dan out. Everyone stood up today; our defence was our platform."
First grade: Port City Breakers 24 (tries: Richie Roberts 2, Dan Dumas, Tyler Roberts. Goals: Cuban Quinlan-Piper 4/4) defeated Port Macquarie Sharks 8 (tries: Hunter Clayworth, Dylan Adams. Goals: Dylan Clark 0/1, Ryan Long 0/1)
Reserve grade: Port City Breakers 20 defeated Port Macquarie Sharks 12
Under-18s: Port City Breakers 28 defeated Port Macquarie Sharks 0
Ladies league tag: Port City Breakers 8 defeated Port Macquarie Sharks 6
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