HAMILTON coach Scott Coleman believes the Hawks are still adjusting to the pressure that comes with chasing a third straight premiership.
The Hawks had to work overtime to beat a plucky University 27-20 at Bernie Curran Oval on Saturday.
They remain unbeaten after five rounds but Coleman expects more from the Hawks.
“I was telling our blokes at the start of the year, we are definitely the hunted,” he said. “Every team that plays us is going to be up. We can’t relax or we’ll be towelled up.
“Mentally we’ve been bad. I don’t know what the answer is to that. It was a big off-season and we’ve got another two weeks then the long weekend, so hopefully that will freshen them up a bit. We’ll have the week off, celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary, get a bit of club spirit and freshen them up.”
Coleman lamented the Hawks’ mental lapses but lauded the effort of his debutants against the Students.
With halves Liam Walker and Sam McNeil and winger Sireli Bainivalu missing, Hamilton called on the likes of Noah Church and Sam Morgan and Sami Paulsson.
Uni fullback Dan Wells was shown a yellow card in the 36th minute for a high tackle and Hamilton capitalised with tries to Steve Lamont and Seva Rokobaro to lead 24-10 at half-time.
Uni were back within reach with a try to Dane LeRougetel in the 51st minute and a penalty three minutes later for 24-20.
“It definitely wasn’t polished by us, we’ve still got a lot of improving to do and a lot more work,” Coleman said.
“But we had a few blokes out and a few debutants, and they were actually a couple of our best players. Noah Church and Sam Morgan, and Sami Paulsson, our No.6. They were probably our best.
“Uni are not a bad side, full credit to them. They were very enthusiastic at the breakdown and they really tested us there. It’s an area we really have to work on.
“They out-enthused us but were were lucky to get a couple of tries there, which blew it out, but full credit to them for coming back.
“We showed a bit of heart when we needed to, which was pretty pleasing, but we shouldn’t have been in that position.”
The Hawks remain second, two points behind Wanderers and six clear of next-best Southern Beaches.
Elsewhere, giant killers Nelson Bay continued their rise with a 35-18 triumph over Merewether at Strong Oval, Wanderers remained unbeaten leaders with a 41-10 win over Lake Macquarie at Walters Park, Southern Beaches held out The Waratahs 35-29 at Ernie Calland Field and Maitland beat Singleton 52-0 at Marcellin Park.