DORA Creek Swampies have kicked five points clear at the top of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League A-Grade ladder following a 28-10 win over Waratah Cheetahs on Friday night.
Dora Creek led 28-nil at halftime at Waratah Oval, but conceded seven consecutive penalties to the third-placed home team in the second stanza and were forced to defend for long periods.
Waratah managed two late tries.
Dora Creek coach David Hoban said it was a gutsy performance from his team whose preparation had been hampered when five players went down with the flu midweek.
"Waratah had also signed some new players including ex-Newcastle Knights player Chanel Mata'utia and Ben Tupou the brother of ex-Newcastle Knight, Rooster and Cronulla Shark Anthony Tupou," Hoban said.
"The first 15 minutes of the game was as physical as we have had all year, and Waratah came out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm."
Dora Creek then perfectly implemented a game plan to kick early in the tackle count and turn Waratah around.
"It worked very well for us and we eventually forced a mistake and scored a try to lead 6-nil. After that we dominated field position and played close to the perfect half of football," Hoban said.
"It was by far one of the best 40 minutes we have played all year."
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The Dora Creek coach said his half-time talk focused on the importance of continuing to play positive, expansive football. But the second half didn't go to plan.
"Unfortunately, the second half was a stop-start affair and we had to deal with a 7-nil penalty count against us at one stage," Hoban said.
"All we did for the first 20 minutes of that second half was defend our line."
But the Dora Creek resilience was strong, as it has been all season. And the Cheetahs were repeatedly turned away.
Waratah eventually crossed for two late tries.
Hoban said Dora Creek's best was hooker Chris Marlborough.
"Chris continues to provide this team with a great kicking game, outstanding running and passing game and strong defence," he said.
"There was also another strong performance by centre Sam Agalidis, who ended up in the back row in the second half. He was very strong in defence and with his running game."
Lock Justin Budahazy and front rower Diamond Charlie also impressed, the coach said.
This Saturday, Dora Creek will host Windale in Round 10 at Neville Thompson Oval from 3pm.