SOUTH Newcastle captain-coach Matt Shipway said the Lions still had plenty to prove despite their stunning 26-12 upset of Newcastle Rugby League premiers Maitland at Maitland Sportsground.
The Lions fought back from a 12-0 deficit midway through the first half on Thursday night to post 26 unanswered points and become the first team to beat the Pickers at home in more than a year.
"They came out pretty fired up and were looking pretty strong but we scored a try just before half-time to make it 12-6, then I think we were just a little bit too fit for them in the end and sort of ran over the top of them, which was good," Shipway said.
"It's a pretty big win for us. They're always hard to beat, especially at home, and they had a bit of a crowd out there for the night game, so I couldn't have asked for a better start.
"We had nine different blokes get votes in the players' player, so we didn't have a stand-out. It was a good all-round team performance."
Shipway said lock Ainsley Coxsedge, who feared he had torn his biceps in the opening minutes of South's 16-8 victory over Macquarie last Saturday, passed a fitness test at training on Wednesday night and capped a strong performance with a try at the end of the game.
Chasing their first finals berth since 1999, South share top spot with Wyong and Cessnock but Shipway was not looking past the Goannas at Townson Oval on Sunday, May 1.
"We've put a good side together. A few people are saying there's pressure on us to make the semis for the first time in 12 years, but I don't think there's any pressure on us at all," he said. "We only won three games last year, so we only need one more win to equal that.
"If we can come up with a win at home against Cessnock next weekend, we'll have beaten both of last year's grand final sides, so that would be a pretty big statement, but we'll wait and see how we go next Sunday before we get too far ahead of ourselves."
Western Suburbs coach Craig Miller said the Rosellas' 24-10 win at Kurri Sportsground was one of the highest-quality Newcastle Rugby League games he could recall.
Rosellas fullback Joel Penny scored one minute before half-time to give the visitors a 6-0 lead at the break. They led 12-6 with 11 minutes remaining and finished with two more tries.
"There was a big crowd up there, the atmosphere was good, the refereeing was good and both sides really ripped into each other," Miller said. "Jesse Royal and Daniel Abraham are quality players for them and we had to be strong all game.
"In the end we just wore them down, so it was a good win by our blokes."
Wyong responded to a midweek blast from coach Paul Stringer to pound Central Newcastle 60-0 at Morry Breen Oval and record their second straight shut-out.
The 2009 premiers have scored 116 points and are yet to concede one but Stringer was not pleased with his team's attitude in their 56-0 victory over Northern Blues the previous week.
"It was only 6-0 after 25 minutes but we had Central pinned on their line for most of that and I don't think they got out of their half in the first half," Stringer said yesterday.
"Our attitude wasn't right last week but as a coach I was really pleased with the way we turned it around last night."
Stringer said five-eighth Chad Sharp stood out for the Roos. Centres Domenic Nasso and Wise Kativerata scored three tries each.
Centre Nathan Ross scored four tries as Lakes United opened their account with a 26-10 win over Northern Blues at Cahill Oval.
Cessnock pipped Macquarie 20-18 at Cessnock Sportsground and remain unbeaten.