The Newcastle Maitland Region Knights jumped one hurdle with ease in the opening round of the Country Championships at Cessnock at the weekend.
Now, the women’s tackle representatives will face their next obstacle, in the shape of the Northern Rivers Titans at Raymond Terrace’s Lakeside Sporting Complex on Saturday 6 March.
The Russell Grigg-coached outfit demolished the Greater Northern Tigers 26-0 a few days ago, on the back of a stunning first half blitz.
“To be honest, I was pretty stoked [with the performance],” he said.
“We’ve shown some promise in recent years.
“Greater Northern is a solid side, too.
“So, we were hoping to get a good gauge as to how we were travelling [in the tournament].
“And, I think we did that.
“The girls played it like a semi-final – and set the tone early.
“They executed the game plan; however we weren’t without faults either.
“But, I was pleasantly surprised by the way they kept their composure.
“That was the challenge [for us] this season: staying consistent.
“To hold them (Tigers) out in the final 10 minutes was also very pleasing, especially after only a single full training run last Friday evening.”
Grigg admitted the side “just clicked”, with Taylah Gray bagging a double, and Nicole Stanfield, Robyn Draper and Rhianna Cipta posting impressive tries in the rout.
“Second-rower Phoebe Desmond was fantastic and lock Chantelle Graham, who boasts a brilliant tackling technique, always leads from the front,” he said.
“I think the back three – Gray, Christa Smith and Draper – were great.
“They looked for work, got heavily involved and offered terrific flair in attack.
“Taylah wanted to challenge herself at fullback and she’s grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
“We had a good bench as well.
“In fact, the whole 17 did their job. No one overplayed their hand.
“However, we’ll keep a close eye on Harmony Liddell and Chantelle (Graham) during the week.
“They both suffered head knocks and will have to undergo the concussion protocols.”
A win, at the expense of the Titans this weekend, will certainly put the Knights in play-off contention.
But, Grigg isn’t counting his chickens before they hatch.
“We’ve never played them [Northern Rivers] before,” he said.
“So, they are a bit of an unknown.
“The women’s game is always evolving – every year is a different test.
“We’re expecting a tough match.
“However, we’ll focus on getting our mentality right to step up again; and work hard for each other.
“Any side, on their day, can prevail – we just need to concentrate on our game.”
As for the Tigers, mentor Mick Schmiedel described the result as “disappointing”.
“They tried their hearts out but they didn’t get on the board,” he said.
Greater Northern lacked any cohesion and struggled to make ground against a determined and imposing Knights squad.
“They were very good,” Schmiedel said of the opposition.
“Everything fell into place for them.
“They are the best side we’ve played over the three years of the Country Championships.
“The worst thing is now, realistically, we cannot make the semis.
“We’ve got too many points to pull back even if we were to win next Saturday.”
NEWCASTLE MAITLAND REGION KNIGHTS 26 (Taylah Gray 2, Nicole Stanfield, Robyn Draper, Rhianna Cipta tries; Ashlee Harvey 3 goals) d GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS 0