SOUTH Newcastle coach Adam Bettridge said five-eighth Scott Briggs had silenced his detractors yesterday with a stellar performance in the 24-8 win over Cessnock.
Briggs scored a solo try and assisted in several others as the Lions sent out their Boston-bound skipper Matt Shipway in style at Townson Oval.
The win came a week after Briggs and his halfback partner Jarrod Rotumah were criticised for a flat performance in the 20-4 loss to Newcastle Rugby League premiers Western Suburbs.
Both were impressive against the Goannas, particularly Briggs, whose kicking and passing game controlled the match.
‘‘An extra week on the training park works wonders,’’ Bettridge said.
‘‘Scotty had an off day the other day and everyone has off days, but it seemed to be a lot of people around town that wanted to put the knife into him that he’s old and he can’t do this and can’t do that.
‘‘I still think Scott Briggs is the best seven in town and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.’’
The Lions came out with intensity and scored in the eighth minute when the ball was shifted to the right wing for Ryan Pywell to finish.
Pywell nearly grabbed his second 15minutes later, before Briggs sent the ball to the left wing for Lewis Schneider to score.
Souths prop Jerome Wilson almost barged over for a third try, but he dropped the ball over the line.
The error gave Cessnock a chance to respond, and Brendan Hlad scored following a break by Chris Pyne.
The Goannas, who were averaging 49 points per game over the past month, seemed to be clicking in attack as Riley Brown put Al Lantry over for their second try to make it 10-8 to Souths.
But on half-time Lions fullback Steve Widders’s kick and chase extended the home side’s lead to 16-8.
The second half was tight, until the 62nd minute when Briggs dummied and strolled over.
Briggs almost set up Widders’s second try but it was disallowed for obstruction.
Pywell then finished the job on full-time with a runaway try from a Lantry knock-on.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Goannas, and coach Steve Kidd admitted defence was a concern.
‘‘The first half we completed 60per cent and gave them too much ball,’’ Kidd said. ‘‘We probably weren’t at the races and did too much D, and we can’t defend back-to-back sets. It’s been the case all year – every time someone has two sets they score.’’
The Souths forwards dominated the Goannas pack and prevented Cessnock’s weapons Chris Adams and Brown from firing.
‘‘How slow the ruck was also affected us,’’ Kidd said.
‘‘That was our fault as we got put on our backs a lot.’’
Macquarie moved to second after a 32-14 win over Central Newcastle at St John Oval yesterday.
The Scorpions led 22-0 at half-time, despite losing halfback Mick Moran (10th minute) and second-rower Hamish Bryant (32nd) to hamstring injuries.
Macquarie coach Barrie Moore was rapt with his forwards, especially the trio of Blake Gallen, Adam Swadling and Blake Chaffey.
‘‘The boys are starting to gel to the way we need to play and it was a good day at the office,’’ Moore said.
‘‘Obviously losing those two doesn’t help, but hopefully we get [Danny] Vaughan and Aja Roberts back, so we’ll be right.’’
Maitland captain-coach PJ Ellis’s decision to shift Terence Seu Seu from halfback to hooker brought immediate success as the Pickers flogged Lakes United 46-14 at Cahill Oval.
In Saturday’s only game, Kurri Kurri’s centre Scott Dunn scored in the 75th minute to hand the Bulldogs a 12-6 win over Port Stephens at Tomaree.