Macquarie Scorpions let a 10-8 lead at halftime slip away in their NSW Challenge Cup rugby league match against Wyong on Saturday.
Wyong proved too strong in the second stanza, running out 32-16 winners.
Wyong's football manager Stephen Marks said the Scorpions started well, controlling the ball and playing to their strengths with aggressive running close to the ruck, and nice variety from dummy-half.
"Several of Macquarie’s big men poked their noses through the defence but were unable to find support. The Roos at times struggled to contain the home team's attack," Marks said.
Macquarie led 10-nil early in the second quarter before Wyong responded when, on the back of good field position, five-eighth Lachlan Hanneghan dummied then slipped in behind the defensive line which had advanced beyond the ball.
Hanneghan converted his try and subsequently kicked a penalty goal on halftime to narrow the scoreline to 10-8 at the main break.
In the third quarter, Wyong halfback Terence Seu Seu ensured the momentum continued to flow the visitors' way.
His kick was touched in flight before finding the sideline near Macquarie's 20m line, earning Wyong the scrum feed.
The visitors worked for a set play and big Shaq Mitchell crashed over to score. Hanneghan converted to give Wyong a 14-10.
Macquarie looked to hit back with a left-side attacking spread in Wyong territory, but Wyong's Luke Dolbel stole the ball and raced clear to score.
Hanneghan made it four goals from four attempts to extend the Roos' lead to 20-10.
Wyong received a penalty soon after the restart and fullback Luke Sharpe's quick tap and dash again had Macquarie on the back foot.
"The Roos worked methodically to a scoring position and another rehearsed move at the ruck resulted in prop Jake Lewis crashing over from close range," Marks said.
Hanneghan’s conversion gave the visitors a 26-10 lead.
Macquarie attempted to boost their defensive intensity, but conceded penalties in the process.
"Macquarie regrouped, and despite being a man short stretched Wyong from sideline to sideline," Marks said.
"Only desperate defence kept the Roos line intact."
Wyong again moved upfield and camped inside Macquarie territory where another sharp set play saw Hanneghan score his second try, which he converted, to send the Roos out to a 32-10 lead.
Macquarie reduced the deficit with a late try on the back of some short, sharp passing.
The Scorpions didn't get the result they were after, but showed enough against a strong Wyong outfit to suggest there will be plenty for their fans to get excited about in 2019.
The club was particularly buoyed by the attendance on Saturday.
The Scorpions will play trials in all grades against Lakes United at Belmont on Saturday, March 9, and The Entrance and Western Suburbs on Saturday, March 16.
The Newcastle Rugby League premiership kicks off on April 7.
Wyong, meanwhile, advances to the second round of the NSW Challenge Cup.
They will take on Wentworthville Magpies at Morry Breen Field, Kanwal, this Saturday, February 23, from 4pm.