OUTGOING Maitland coach Trevor Ott could be forgiven for thinking “what if” after the Pickers made it back-to-back wins with an emphatic 26-6 win over Cessnock at Cessnock Sportsground.
In the other game on Saturday, Lakes United recorded a hard fought 18-16 win over Kurri Kurri.
The Goannas had everything to play for on Saturday. Mathematically they were still a chance of the finals, it was their old boy’s, the 40-year reunion of the 1977 premiership side and Chris Pyne was celebrating his 250th game.
However, the party was spoiled by a committed and clinical Pickers outfit. They led 14-0 at half-time. The win followed a 22-14 win over second-placed Macquarie and moved them to eight points, six outside the five.
“We have had a lot of close losses,” Ott said. “Even if you get half them go your way, you are playing semi-final football. Unfortunately the games we lost by two and four points have really hurt us at the back end.”
“Fullback Reeve Howard has only played three games of first grade and to have two wins in a row is enormous for him.”
Again it was prop Dane Tilse and lock Tyler Carter, who led the way for the Pickers.
“They were outstanding,” Ott said. “Tyler Carter scored two tries and got our players’ player. He is a constant threat in the middle of the park.”
A big and vocal crowd were on hand to spur on the Goannas, in particular Pyne.
“Thankfully, we were able to keep the crowd out out of the game with a pretty handy start,” Ott said. “Cessnock had the lion’s share of the ball early. That is where we have been poor in the past, we have conceded points easily. But we dug in and defended sets on our line.”
Ott paid tribute to Pyne, praising his contribution to Cessnock and the game.
The start of the first grade game was delayed by 20 minutes after Maitland under-19s prop Ben McIlwraith badly broke and dislocated his ankle and needed an ambulance.