It was a case of what could have been for the Kempsey Cannonballs in their season opener against the Coffs Harbour Snappers at Crescent Head on Saturday.
The Cannonballs were rewarded after a superior first half when they went into the break with an eight-point lead but disaster struck early in the second half, when Braden Farrawell was shown a red card and Kempsey went on to lose 50-40 against the defending champions.
Cannonballs coach Carl Thurgood said Farrawell receiving his marching orders was a turning point in the match.
"They had started stronger than us in the second half and scored after the break to even things up before an altercation led to a red card on our side and a yellow card on theirs," Thurgood told the Argus.
"This was the major turning point in the game as we played almost the entire second half a man short."
Coffs Harbour took advantage of the extra man and posted three unanswered tries before the Cannons rallied late and came within five points before the Snappers secured their win with the final try.
While Thurgood was pleased with his side's attack, he was equally as disappointed with their defensive effort.
"We will definitely need to work hard on our defence over the next couple of weeks leading into our next game," he said.
"If we want to be serious contenders this year then we can't afford to leak that many points."
Thurgood credited his centre pairing, new recruit and two debutantes for superb games.
"Our centres centres Corey Gale and Iulio Tavete had great games and they were backed up well by hard work from our new prop Nathan Phillips," Thurgood said.
"Caedan Allan and Cooper Gray performed well on debut and got a taste of the difference in intensity at senior rugby level.
"They will both take a lot from the experience."
Kempsey have an additional week to work on their defence as the Upper Mid North Coast Rugby Union competition takes a break for the Easter long weekend.
The Cannonballs will be on the road in their next match as they travel to Port Macquarie to face the Pirates.
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