Cessnock will have to rely on other results going their way after a tough loss to South Newcastle on Saturday left their finals hopes hanging by a thread.
The Goannas were in the fight at halftime, trailing 20-12, but a clinical second half from Souths saw the Newcastle team roll to a 52-12 win.
“In the first half we were OK. We let in a late try that didn’t reflect how tight that half was,” Cessnock coach Steve Kidd said.
“In the second half they were pretty clinical and we just couldn’t get the momentum back.”
Kidd said a lengthy injury list, which saw Cessnock missing 10 first grade regulars in their clash against Wests last week, had tested their depth.
A few of the injured returned for the Souths match, with Kurt Warden, Kody Brooks and Theeran Pearson all going into the match carrying injuries.
“We are playing a lot of blokes who are wounded and have a lot of blokes missing,” coach Steve Kidd said.
“We just weren’t up for it in the second half.
“Full credit to Souths, their second half was super.
“They are building nicely and can probably cause some damage in the finals.”
The result moved Souths to 14 points and equal fourth alongside Lakes United. Cessnock are four points back in sixth with two rounds to play.
The Goannas are still a mathematical chance of making the finals, but Kidd acknowledged they were now reliant on other results going their way.
“A lot of things have to go right for us now,” he said.
The damage to their points differential would also hurt their finals chances, he added.
Kidd said the performances of youthful lock Blake Andrew and hooker Nick Lawrence were a positive in an otherwise disappointing afternoon.
“They were outstanding. It’s good for the future,” he said of the two rookies.
Kidd said there would be “a bit of soul-searching" done this week ahead of their clash with Maitland, which will be played on Old Boys’ Day ahead of a reunion of the 1977 grand final winning Cessnock side.
In other league news, Kidd extended congratulations to former teammate Luke Dorn, who has been named Maitland Pickers coach for next season.