NOTHING can make up for losing last season’s grand final to Merewether, but Hamilton coach Scott Coleman believes the Hawks have laid a solid platform for another Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union premiership assault.
The Hawks beat Merewether 40-23 in a rematch of the 2011 decider at Passmore Oval on Saturday.
Both sides bore little resemblance to last September when the Greens scored in the final minute to triumph 20-16, but the win was important just the same.
The Hawks have now won five of six games to sit in second place on 25 points, two points adrift of undefeated leaders Southern Beaches.
Significantly, four of the victories have been without NSW Country stars Va Talaileva, Steve Lamont, Lewie Catt, Pat Kilmurray and Ben Harriss, who combined to help lead the Cockatoos to a 60-3 thrashing of Queensland Country in Cowra on Saturday.
Nick Palmer was in the squad but is injured.
The Country players are available for the battle against Lake Macquarie at Walters Park on Saturday but will miss the round-eight clash against Wanderers at Passmore Oval.
At least some of the Hawks are expected be selected for Country Gold, which is boosted by Sydney-based players, to take on Sydney on June 9.
‘‘Initially I would have been happy to get through the Country period with three losses,’’ Coleman said.
‘‘The way it’s looking, we might get through with one, maybe two.
‘‘We are sitting pretty well and I’m confident we can build some momentum for the rest of the season.’’
Undefeated last season, the Greens have lost two of their past three games and have slipped to fifth place on 17 points.
They fielded a young outfit on Saturday and were unlucky not to at least pick up a bonus point.
Two of Hamilton’s tries were from turnovers.
The final five-pointer was the result of a miscued field goal attempt which winger Maamaloa Taufa chased down.
‘‘We had a bit of luck,’’ Coleman said.
‘‘Two of our tries came against the run of play. They also scored an intercept try. To be honest, it was a pretty willing contest.
‘‘The first 20 minutes was very physical. There was a period 10 minutes before half-time where we were camped in their quarter but they kept us out. They were pretty pumped from that, but second half we made the most of some opportunities and scored.’’
Meanwhile, The Waratahs crossed for two tries in the final five minutes to upset Wanderers 32-31 at Waratah Oval.
Down 12-7 early, the Two Blues looked to have wrapped up the win when Paul Mlotkowski swooped on a loose pass and ran 50 metres to score under the posts for a 31-22 advantage.
Showing a never-say-die approach, the Tahs hit back through a close-range try to prop John Taufaao.
Then on the last play of the day, they attacked from inside their own half.
Veteran fullback Dan McGavern got outside his defender and found replacement winger Jack Rixon, who beat the cover in a 50m dash to the tryline.
‘‘It is a huge thing to win,’’ delighted Tahs coach Greg Doolan said.
‘‘You can only tell the guys they are trying hard so many times. They need to get a result for that trying.
‘‘Today was our day.’’
Elsewhere on Saturday, University scored a converted try on full-time to get within a point of Maitland, going down 31-30 at Marcellin Park.
Southern beaches continued their unbeaten run with a 21-3 win over Lake Macquarie at Walters Park and Nelson Bay downed Singleton 31-18 at Rugby Park.