MAITLAND were very good for 60 minutes against Southern Beaches.
It’s the final 20 minutes that Blacks coach Geoff Golledge has focused on in the lead-up to the heavyweight clash with Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union pacesetters Hamilton at Passmore Oval today.
Maitland led Beaches 21-10 and had the second-placed home side on toast. But in an amazing turnaround, Beaches stormed home to score 25 unanswered points on the way to a 35-26 victory.
‘‘We didn’t play smart rugby in the last 20 minutes, but to their credit they were able to capitalise,’’ Golledge said.
‘‘Hopefully we have learnt from that.
‘‘We don’t want to be giving Hamilton opportunities if we are up 21-10, that is for sure.’’
Golledge put the late fade down to a couple of factors.
‘‘It was probably a little bit of mental fatigue,’’ he said.
‘‘We have been working them pretty hard at training, because we knew we had a hard month coming up.
‘‘Southern Beaches are a very physical side. We could not get our hands on the ball for bits and pieces, and it just tired us out at the end.’’
Hamilton are not as big as Beaches, but they play a similar style and if anything, are more efficient with the ball.
‘‘They are a lot more structured than most teams and are very mobile,’’ Golledge said. ‘‘Once they get the ball it is hard to get it off them.
‘‘They have six country players and are pretty handy right across the park. It is hard to pick a weakness but we think we have a game plan that might help us.’’
Though keeping faith in the same players, Golledge has made some positional changes to try to get more out of his pack.
‘‘Michael Howell moves back into the second row, where he won’t have to do quite as much running,’’ Golledge said.
‘‘Hughes De Rocquigny switches to the side, where he is more accustomed, which will take a little pressure off him.
‘‘He was working pretty hard in open play as well as pushing hard in the scrums.’’
In the backs, Golledge has made two changes, dropping captain Luke Cunningham for Jono O’Toole and Rob Williamson for Michael Hendry.
‘‘Luke has been good for a very long time, but injuries are starting to get to him and Jono gives us a bit more spark,’’ Golledge said.
Hamilton coach Scott Coleman paid the price for programming a contact training session on Tuesday night and lost Nick Palmer (hamstring), Chris Stratton (shoulder) and William Soe (knee). They join No.8 Va Talaileva (knee) on the sideline.
‘‘We were going to field one of our stronger outfits, but that is the risk you take when you do an opposed session,’’ Coleman said.
‘‘To be fair, Strats, Sticks [Palmer] and Va have been in and out of the side all season.
‘‘Them being unavailable won’t change what we do.’’
Coleman is impressed by the Blacks, who are in fourth spot on 28 points and need a win to stay in touch with the top three.
‘‘The biggest difference this season is that they have pace out wide,’’ he said.