THREE tries in the final 15 minutes added some respectability to the scoreline for Port Macquarie at Verge Street Oval on Saturday.
While the Sharks went down 44-26 to Macleay Valley, the match was as good as over when the Mustangs raced out to a 30-8 lead at the break.
Coach Ben Kirkland went one step further, admitting his side lost the mental battle and subsequently the match before a ball was even kicked.
"Sometimes players can go up there with that mindset because it can be a daunting place to play footy," he said.
"Our young blokes were probably beaten before they got there."
A few home truths in the sheds at the break had the desired result as the Sharks came out more committed in the second half.
"They copped a bit of a spray at halftime and a few of the older heads said it could have gotten ugly and we could have been beaten by 70," Kirkland said.
"I told them to toughen up a bit and get on with it, but we still weren't good enough in the second half.
"We turned up with a poor attitude."
It was a different Sharks outfit that were resolute in defence in their opening-round victory over Port City.
"We weren't getting our bodies in front," Kirkland said.
"Single players miss tackles and I'm not blaming anyone in particular - we had a few that were making arms tackles.
"After last week's win maybe we got ahead of ourselves so it's good to come back to ground."
In coming weeks the Sharks will welcome back some experienced heads in Kurt Molony and Mitch Smith.
Their presence will give the defending premiers more starch in the middle of the park.
"I'm not too worried (about what happened on Saturday)," Kirkland said.
"We've got some troops to come back because without those senior players it does make things a bit hard."