WANDERERS captain Anthony Barrett is confident the Two Blues will shake off the disappointment of letting chances slip against Southern Beaches and be contenders for the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union title.
With a strong wind at his back, Wanderers five-eighth Mark Sherwood missed three long-range penalty kicks in the final 15 minutes as the Two Blues lost 18-17 at Cahill Oval on Saturday to drop to fifth on the table.
Maitland leapfrogged Wanderers into fourth with a 29-5 win over Merewether Carlton at Marcellin Park. James Johnston scored two tries for the Blacks, who are equal on points with the Greens but trail on for and against with two rounds remaining.
Those results and Lake Macquarie’s 17-all draw with leaders Hamilton at Hawkins Oval left the Roos just three points behind the top five.
Lake Macquarie and Wanderers face tough matches next week, against Merewether and Hamilton respectively, before clashing in a potentially decisive final-round clash at Walters Park.
But it could have been very different for Wanderers, who pushed second-placed Beaches all the way on Saturday.
They trailed 8-7 running into the teeth of a strong wind and scored first in the second half before Beaches crossed twice.
Wanderers scored a try to get within one point but Sherwood, who kicked the only conversion of the match, was unable to knock over a penalty to put them in front.
Beaches kicker Tim Riley kicked one penalty but missed all three conversions in the difficult conditions.
Barrett said Wanderers were disappointed with the result but not the effort.
‘‘We did a good job to trail by only a point at half-time,’’ Barrett said.
‘‘We had a few opportunities to win it but couldn’t quite get there in the end, unfortunately.
‘‘We were pretty happy with how we played the game though. Southern Beaches are obviously are no easybeats so we knew it would be a tough game.
‘‘But we played a good solid game and we’ve been improving over the last few weeks.’’
Charl Van Niekerk and Bleddyn Gant were Beaches’ best against a weakened Wanderers pack, but the hosts were most pleased with the return of five-eighth Michael Delore.
Playing his first full game in more than a year due to a knee reconstruction, Delore scored a try in a solid display. His brother, Andy Delore, also returned from a knee problem which has sidelined him for most of the season. Both came through the match unscathed.
Hamilton remarkably turned down a penalty shot from a relatively easy position with four minutes left in their draw with the Roos.
With the score locked at 17-all, the Hawks opted to go for a try. The table leaders had trailed 12-0 then 17-10 before scoring wth 10 minutes left to draw level.
Steve Sione scored two tries for Hamilton, while Junior Stowers crossed for a brace for the Roos.
The boot of University’s Josh Phillips proved the difference as the Students and Singleton scored four tries each in a 27-20 result at Rugby Park.
The Waratahs-Nelson Bay game was postponed to August 22 because of the waterlogged Waratah Oval.
Heavy showers on Friday night came after Newcastle City Council watered the cricket pitch area at Waratah Oval that morning.