NOW for the big test.
Southern Beaches disposed of The Waratahs 41-14 at Waratah Oval to make it three from three and continue the club’s best start to a Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union season.
The triumph, sealed by 21 unanswered points in the second half, followed equally impressive victories over Maitland (21-12) and Singleton (57-3).
Next they play the two other unbeaten sides this season, defending premiers Merewether Carlton then leaders Hamilton.
The Greens, who have been struck by injury and departures, accounted for Nelson Bay 22-13 at Townson Oval on Saturday.
Hamilton steamrolled Singleton 69-0.
‘‘As a club we are looking forward to the next fortnight,’’ Southern Beaches coach Tim Chidgey said.
‘‘There is a real buzz about the place. Even before we left the field on Saturday, the talk was about Merewether and Hamilton.
‘‘Merewether are probably not the team they were last season, but they are still winning.
‘‘It will be a big challenge for us. Beaches have never beaten Merewether, the Hawthorne Cup is up for grabs and we are home. There is a lot to play for.’’
Saturday’s win was forged through the middle, where the visitors used their size and power to wear down the determined Tahs.
The Waratahs trailed 20-14 at the break, but the second half was one-way traffic.
Five of Beaches’ seven tries were scored by forwards.
Two Irishmen, prop Tom Foley and second-rower Noel Kinnane, both crossed twice.
‘‘Our forward pack aimed up and really tore into them,’’ Chidgey said. ‘‘Harry [Bleddyn Gant] and Mobby [Mark O’Brien] were outstanding, and Hayden Gavin had a ripper of a game on the side.
‘‘Our superior fitness also came through in the second half.
‘‘We more than doubled our points and kept them to nil, which was satisfying.’’.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Lantry brothers Jordy and Jayde marked their first game together in the top grade by inspiring Maitland to a hard-fought 25-23 win over Lake Macquarie at Walters Park.
Winger Jayde scored a double and younger brother and NSW Country under-20 outside-centre Jordy scored the other as the Blacks came back from a 12-5 deficit at half-time.
But it was the Blacks’ defence that pleased coach Geoff Golledge most, particularly in the final 10 minutes when they were reduced to 14 men after James Howell was sent to the sin bin.
‘‘It was a tight contest and Lake Macquarie will certainly win a lot more than they lose,’’ Golledge said. ‘‘We defended really well on our own line for about 15 minutes, which probably won us the game.’’
Merewether overcame the absence of points-scoring machines Sam Clifton and Sam Bright, who both require surgery, to get home against the Gropers.
Clifton is awaiting a scan today on a torn pectoral but is pencilled in for an operation tomorrow and could be out for the season.
Bright will have surgery on his hand and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
Hamilton did not miss a beat despite being without five NSW Country representatives in an 11-try shutout of the Bulls at Passmore Oval.
In the final match, Wanderers scored a late converted try to snatch a 34-all draw with University at Uni No.1 Oval.