DORA Creek Swampies suffered their first loss of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League A-Grade premiership on Saturday, beaten 26-24 by Belmont Souths at Neville Thompson Oval.
It was an uncharacteristically off day for the Swampies.
But despite that, the home team competed stoutly and still almost stole a win at the end.
Dora Creek trailed 26-14 late in the second half, before setting up a grandstand finish.
Dora Creek coach David Hoban said the loss would ensure some lessons were learned, but he couldn't fault his team's effort.
"I said to my boys after the game whilst it was not our best performance today I am very proud of them as they tried their hearts out till the final whistle and competed hard," Hoban said.
"It took 80 minutes for a team to beat them."
Macquarie had anticipated a tough and physical clash with the second-placed Belmont.
"And it was all of that, and more," Hoban said.
Belmont raced in two early tries to lead 8-nil.
"We made a lot of mistakes in the first 20 minutes, and were our own worst enemies.
"Credit to Belmont who were really enthusiastic and high on energy and they forced us into a lot of uncharacteristic errors."
Dora Creek's eventually settled and back-rower Jarhn Komene scored to close the gap to 8-6.
The game opened up, and the action shifted quickly from end to end at pace.
Just before half time, Belmont scored a try under the posts to lead 14-6 at the break.
Hoban said Dora Creek's half-time talk focussed on getting "the dumb mistakes" out of their game.
"It was not the first time we were behind at half time, and I asked the boys to just trust the process. We had to get back to not panicking and being very patient when we had the ball in good field position."
Dora Creek came out for the second stanza and scored excellent tries through centres Scott Webb and Sam Agalidis to lead 18-14 with 20 minutes remaining.
"Then we came up with an error off the kick-off and Belmont scored to lead 20-18. Some fragile defence again from us allowed Belmont to score and extend the lead to 26-14," Hoban said.
"We scored soon after to bring the scores to 26-18. A solo try to our half-back Paddy Murphy got us back to 26-24 with a minute remaining. Unfortunately we run out of time and were not good enough on the day."
The loss means Dora Creek's lead on the competition ladder has been reduced to three points, with three games to play before the semi finals.
Dora Creek is at home again this Saturday where it will host Woodberry at 3pm.