SOUTH Newcastle coach Ben Cross remains confident his team is close to hitting form after the champions suffered their second loss in as many weeks to the team they beat in last year’s grand final, Macquarie.
Souths led 20-18 at half-time but the Scorpions surged to a matchwinning lead midway through the second half, eventually prevailing 33-26.
The rain-deferred match at Townson Oval followed last week’s clash between the same two teams, which Macquarie won 22-16.
Playmaker Scott Briggs was a dominant force for the visitors, contributing 17 points from a try, six goals and a field goal.
Elusive fullback Mitchell Manson scored twice for Macquarie, while veteran Daniel Abraham barged over for their opening four-pointer.
Powerful winger Ofa Manuofetoa grabbed a double for their home team, and five-eighth Ryan Glanville, hooker Liam Higgins and fullback Lachlan Walmsley also picked up tries.
The loss left Souths clinging to fifth place, and facing a tough game against Lake United at Townson on Sunday.
If the Red Lions were to lose and Cessnock beat Central, the premiers would drop out of the five and be under pressure to make the finals.
Yet Cross sees no cause for panic and believes his team are more than capable of starting a winning run.
“There’s been a few little things that have disrupted our season, but I wasn’t overly concerned with last week’s loss, and I feel pretty much the same today,’’ Cross said.
“The players are saying the right things. I know they’re doing all the right things at training.
“We made a few uncharacteristic errors today, but it’s going to click eventually, and it has done previously.
“We’ve shown what we can do, when we beat Central and in a few of our other wins, when it does click and we put it all together. We know what we’re capable of and how potent we can be.’’
“We’ve shown what we can do when it does click.
Cross said his message to the players would be to “stay patient”.
“There’s still six or seven games to go, so there’s plenty of time,’’ he said.
Having lost the past two grand finals, to South and Lakes (2015), Macquarie appear intent on making amends this year.
Their win on Sunday sets up a top-of-the-table clash with Western Suburbs at Harker Oval on Sunday.
When the two teams met at Peacock Field in round four, Macquarie emerged with an 18-14 victory.
That was the only loss Wests have suffered this year and they will no doubt be keen for some payback.