Undefeated Goannas show grit in brave derby win over Maitland

TRY: Maitland playmaker Chad O'Donnell lunges for the line as the Cessnock defence look to hold him up. Picture Smart Artist.
TRY: Maitland playmaker Chad O'Donnell lunges for the line as the Cessnock defence look to hold him up. Picture Smart Artist.

It took a combination of things ... resilience, tenacity and skill, but above all a heavy smattering of good old fashioned guts.

The result was a thrilling 24-22 win over Maitland in the battle of the premiers.

"I was so proud of that effort," Cesnock Goannas coach Todd Edwards said. "There aren't too many teams who'll go to Maitland and walk away with the two points."

The win was magnified by the fact that a clash of three players going for a loose ball midway through the first half meant Cessnock were without key playmaker, halfback Gerome Burns (shoulder) and skipper Reed Hugo (cheekbone) for the bulk of the match.

The Pickers too were hit, with fullback Daniel Langbridge injured in the same clash and leaving the field, while representative forward Pat Mata'utia injured a leg early and couldn't return.

It meant both sides were digging deep in a high quality match that was a typical, uncompromising derby in which the lead changed hands several times. Even with their final set in attack, Maitland broke the line and had a chance to win.

"I thought our defence overall was sensational," Edwards said. "There's no egos in this team, they just work really hard for each other."

With Burns off injured Cessnock needed someone to steer the team and five-eighth AJ Davis stood up - he was outstanding, the best player on the park.

"We needed someone to dominate and he showed real leadership," Edwards said. "He's a quality player. But we had good players right across the park ... Billy Gilbert, Connor Kirkwood, Wyatt Shaw, Josh Griffiths, Liam Foran made a difference when he came on. Just a great team effort."

The emphasis now will be to follow the win up with another two points against Lakes this weekend at Cahill Oval - a match, on form, the Goannas should win.

Kurri too looked good on the weekend downing The Entrance 16-10 away from home. They kept the home side scoreless in the second half and after an unlucky loss the previous week are building nicely.

"Absolutely delighted with that effort," president Mick Alchin said. "That defence was as good as I've seen in a long time. We're really happy with where we're at, things are looking good.

STRONG SHOWING:" Tyler Carter is settling in quickly to the five-eighth role.

STRONG SHOWING:" Tyler Carter is settling in quickly to the five-eighth role.

"Our attack is still coming together, but that's to be expected. Our halves are new, we played a new hooker this week in Lewis Hughes who's only 20 but very promising. But overall we're really happy with the way things are coming together."

Alchin was also impressed by The Entrance and said the match was extremely physical.

"I would say it's one of the hardest games I've seen in Newcastle for quite a while," he said. "It just reinforced what I've been saying. Those two Central Coast teams - Wyong and The Entrance - have made this in to one of the hardest seasons we've had in a long while."

Kurri 's star recruit Nathan Ross is still to make his debut this season after suffering a calf tear. The club will not rush him back.

"He's desperate to get out there but the last thing we want to do is force the issue."

While patience is the order of the day with Ross, the club's other new recruits, forward Frank-Paul Nu'uausala and five-eighth Tyler Randall are both playing strongly, and with Henry Penn back from Knights duty, there's certainly a powerful look to the Bulldogs.