MAITLAND coach Geoff Golledge is not sure if the current Hamilton outfit is as good as the one which beat the Blacks to claim the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union premiership two years ago.
But Golledge is certain of one thing – the Blacks need to develop consistency if they want to be a threat to the Hawks and the other top teams in September.
An undermanned Hamilton powered past Maitland 45-14 at Passmore Oval on Saturday to remain at the top of table.
The Blacks were confident about their chances, but the contest was effectively over after 20 minutes as the Hawks piled on 26 points on the way to a 33-14 half-time lead.
The Hawks were without Va Talaileva, Nick Palmer and William Soe but didn’t miss a beat.
‘‘They were pretty slick and we couldn’t go with them,’’ a disappointed Golledge said.
‘‘They had a few players out as well.
‘‘We were pretty confident but it didn’t go our way and we couldn’t recover.
‘‘Once Hamilton get a roll on you are not going to chase them down.
‘‘They might take the foot off the throttle a bit but you are going to be hard pressed to get anywhere near them.
‘‘We just weren’t on our game. Mentally we weren’t there and they make you pay.’’ Maitland’s cause was not helped by the late withdrawal of lock James Howell and injuries to Matt Jarrett (ribs) and Mick Howell (sternum) inside the opening five minutes.
‘‘The disruptions didn’t help but we just missed too many simple tackles,’’ Golledge said.
‘‘Their support play is very good. They are a good young side and just keep on coming at you.
‘‘Across the board there is not any weakness. They have a good lineout, a solid scrum, they have some slick backs ... I’m not sure if they are as good as last year or in 2010.
‘‘The thing is, they are only to get stronger.’’
The Blacks have now lost to the top-two sides in the past fortnight, after going down 35-26 to Southern Beaches in round 10 after leading 21-10.
‘‘It showed the level we have to get to,’’ Golledge said.
‘‘If they want to be the best they have to be able to compete with the best.
‘‘In parts we did.
‘‘Our problem, and I just can’t put my finger on it, is consistency. We can’t produce complete 80-minute efforts.’’
Hamilton, who beat Maitland 39-34 in the 2010 grand final before going down 20-16 to Merewether in last year’s decider, have a two-point lead over Southern Beaches.
Although pleased with most aspects of the win on Saturday, coach Scott Coleman insists there is scope for improvement.
‘‘The boys were really up for it on Saturday,’’ he said.
‘‘We came out strong but I was a bit surprised how quickly we got on top.
‘‘But there is no doubts that we have a lot of work to do.’’
Elsewhere on Saturday, Southern Beaches made light work of their trip to Rugby Park, running in eight tries to beat Singleton 55-6.
Winger Junior Stowers crossed for four tries as Lake Macquarie thumped University 86-12.
Gareth Ernst, Lewis Dunn and Sam Gilmour collected braces to lead Merewether to a 71-6 rout over The Waratahs.
Paul Mlotkowski scored a double as Wanderers ended a three-game losing streak to overcome Nelson Bay 35-22.