The Macleay Valley Mustangs dug deep and showed plenty of heart but ultimately succumbed 50-18 to the two-time defending champions the Port City Breakers in the Group Three Rugby League first grade competition.
The club had a week to forget leading up to the match as they struggled for player numbers and were forced to forfeit their reserve grade game.
However, the players who took the field for the Mustangs on Sunday didn’t take a backwards step and showed plenty of pride in their jersey.
The Mustangs challenged the Breakers, who haven’t tasted defeat in more than two seasons, and held the lead for the majority of the first half.
However, the Breakers depth and superior class was evident in the final 15-minutes as they piled on the points.
“It was a really positive day, the effort and energy was there in all grades and it’s a great sign for the coming weeks,” Mustangs president Tim Moorehead told the Argus.
“I think the Breakers would admit that the scoreline didn’t reflect how close the game was.
“It was a tough one and the Mustangs tested them early on.”
The Mustangs opened the scoring before exchanging tries with the Breakers to hold a 12-6 lead.
However, the Breakers finished the half strong and crossed for three quick tries to grab a 22-12 lead at the break.
Macleay Valley hit back to start the second half and reduced the deficit to 22-18.
They continued to apply the pressure to the Breakers’ defence but after three repeat sets they came up empty handed. Port City capitalised when given the same opportunity.
Moorehead said five-eighth Malcolm Webster was instrumental in leading the Mustangs.
“Mal was really good, his kicking game was brilliant and it led to a couple of the Mustangs’ tries,” he said.
“He was sending the ball wide early and it was testing the Breakers on the edge.”
It was a similar outcome for the Mustangs’ Ladies League Tag side.
The ladies tested the Breakers for the majority of the contest but the Breakers flexed their muscles late to run away 36-6 winners.
Meanwhile the Mustangs’ Under-18.5s side maintained their momentum and earned a hard-fought 24-14 win.
The Mustangs sit in top spot on the ladder.
Macleay Valley play at home against the Wauchope Blues this Sunday.
A decision will be made on whether the Mustangs will contest the reserve grade competition later this week.