There was biff, bash and sin-binnings but Saturday's trial between the Maitland Pickers and Kurri Kurri Bulldogs never reached any highs as a spectacle.
The Bulldogs were 12-10 winners in a three try to two performance in conditions which sapped energy and had the interchange benches working overtime.
Tempers flared in two separate incidents with Bulldogs five-eight Mitch Cullen and Pickers hooker Adam Clydesdale sin-binned for 10 minutes in the first half.
In the final 10 minutes, Bulldogs forward Peter Cronin was sent from the field and Maitland’s Shay Padberg copped 10 minutes on the sidelines.
Pickers coach Luke Dorn said errors in particular dropped ball hampered his side’s performance but there were plenty of positives to come from the game.
“Obviously we want to win every game we play, but I think there were a lot of good signs,” Dorn said.
“We dropped too much ball and you can’t afford to do that against a team like the Bulldogs who have recruited well and have a quality squad this year.
“Our forwards were very good again today and gave us a good platform.”
Both teams were without a number of key players, with Dane Tilse unavailable because of a previous commitment and Geordie Connelly out because of work.
Forwards Jacob Sinclair and Pat Robards, who are both coming back from injury, were rested.
The Bulldogs were without five-eighth Sam Wooden and forwards Brock Gilmour and Mick Steele.
Bulldogs coach Ron Griffiths praised his team’s resolve in defence and willingness to work for each other in holding out the Pickers in the second half.
Griffiths said to win with such a poor performance was a positive thing.
“Everything that we did wrong was fixable. The most important thing was that we stayed there. If we had given that up and got beat I would have been extremely disappointed.
“We had the fortitude to keep turning up for each other. But if we keep coming up with those sort of silly errors and not coming up with 100 per cent plays it is going to be a long year.
“I believe in the playing group but we need to work on our support play, third man in and eradicating those errors.
“Our body language was a major improvement. This week when we were tired we kept putting ourselves in the line.
The Pickers depth in play-making roles was on show with Clydesdale, Jarrod Smith, Hayden Grainger, Tyler Perrin and Ryan Walsh all rotating through the halves and dummy-half.
“It’s a long and tough season and we are not going to be able to rely on a squad of 17 to get us through the year. We need depth,” Dorn said.