Despite the blow-out 52-8 score line, NSW Cup Knights coach Matt Lantry said his team offered up gutsy resolve and faultless effort against a high quality Canterbury Bulldogs outfit in a trial match on Saturday.
The NSW Cup Knights fielded an understrength squad against the Canterbury Bulldogs team, which featured a decent inclusion of NRL players.
“We take this trial as an opportunity to provide local first grade players who are aspiring to play NSW Cup an opportunity to trial,” Lantry said.
“Instead of looking at it like a mismatch, we look at it like a pure opportunity.
“To the boys credit I couldn’t fault the way they approached the game.
“I asked them to go out there, play hard and do their best and that’s exactly what they did.”
Lantry believed the game on paper didn’t reflect the hard work and effort from the Knights.
“We have looked back at the tape and I think we could have scored four or five tries at least,” he said.
He reflected on a number of close calls including a try from Brett Jarrett that was called back as a forward pass and another from Honeti Tuha, who put his foot on the line in the process of scoring, that illustrated the Knights' hunger and resolve.
“On another three occasions we were either held up or close to scoring a try,” he added.
“For those guys to create five opportunities against some real quality opposition, that was the most pleasing thing I thought.
“It was just execution and failure to convert didn’t see us get any more points on the board."
The NSW Cup Knights played different, equally matched teams in each half with both groups showing the same brand of determination.
“We were in the ball game for 30 of the 40 minutes, then Canterbury ran in some late tries,” Lantry said.
“That was a little disappointing considering the effort we put in up until that point.
“As much as the score line was a little bit awful, we competed really well and Canterbury's class and quality that they had on the park just proved too good.
“In the end we looked at in the way that the boys could get a really good opportunity.
“From a coaching perspective I can see the players that can handle playing at this level consistently week in week out.
“From a playing perspective, I think the boys were genuinely excited to play."
The coach’s special mentions go to the Knights’ starting middle players Jake Finn, Tuiala Togitasi, Tama Koopu and Jerome Wilson.
“James De Saxe was really good out of dummy half, Josh Alison was great out on the right edge as well as Brett Jarrett and Sam Keenan in the second team was really good at dummy half,” he added.
Lantry believes the trial match has reflected a strong pre-season invested by the aspiring NSW Cup players.
“There’s no better way to judge on how your pre-season has gone than on your trial form,” he said.
“I think over the last three months the boys have been really good in their approach towards the pre-season and that was evident on the weekend.”
The NSW Cup Knights’ next trial match is against the Mounties on Sunday February 22.