MEREWETHER Carlton coach Jode Roach believes his side will improve and the finals are still a goal despite a 54-12 loss to Wanderers in Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union on Saturday at No.2 Sportsground.
The Greens were blown away in the second half after losing halfback Ed Clifton to the sin-bin and five-eighth Tom Smith for the match to concussion.
Wanderers overcame setbacks of their own in the first half to lead 12-9 at the break. Lock Rhys Dombkins and centre Callum McDonald were both given yellow cards but the Greens could only muster a nine-point lead, which the Two Blues soon bridged.
Bill Coffey, Tim Marsh and Josh McCormack scored two tries each, while Dombkins and Dillon Rowney also crossed for the second-placed Wanderers.
The result left the Greens ninth on 15 points, 10 shy of the top five, after nine rounds.
Roach, though, said his young side had not given up on finals football.
“We’ve still got aspirations of making the top five and I think we will continue to get better,” Roach said.
“Every week we’ve got a kid playing first grade for the first time. The halfback, inside centre, fullback, they are only 20 years old. I think at the backend, our depth will hopefully shine through a little bit.
“We’re just taking each week as it comes and we’ve got a pretty good feeling around the club. We’ve just been on the wrong side of the ledger a few times.”
Roach said his side “probably didn’t do enough” when the Wanderers were down players in the first half, then they were unable to adjust when losing their playmakers.
“We played some good footy in the first half, then we lost our five-eighth and our nine, and we lost some concentration, then they played some really good footy in the second half,” he said.
“We were in control and sticking to the game plan in the first half but then a little bit adversity came and we didn’t adapt.”
Elsewhere, Sireli Bainivalu scored two tries and debutant Rowan Kelly one as leaders Hamilton defeated The Waratahs 29-19 at Waratah Oval.
Southern Beaches beat Maitland 37-17 at Ernie Calland Field to leapfrog them into third place, Lake Macquarie defeated Singleton 36-11 at Lone Pine Barracks and Nelson Bay routed University 57-12 at Bill Strong Oval.
Premier 1: Round 9: The Waratahs 19 (tries D Sherratt, C Hicks, con D Sherratt) def by Hamilton Hawks 29 (tries Sireli Bainivalu 2, R Kelly, S Sione, con P Kilmurray 3, pen P Kilmurray) Merewether Carlton 12 (pen S Rouse 4) def by Wanderers 54 (tries WL Coffey 2, TJ Marsh 2, JD McCormack 2, RR Dombkins, DR Rowney, con LM Simmons 7) Southern Beaches 37 (tries M Aliifaalogo, V Talaileva Iii, MC Delore, FJ Pauta, S Moss, AJ Delore, JW Vaka, con JW Vaka) def Maitland 17 (tries J Maloney, MA Stafford, con J Maloney 2, pen J Maloney) Singleton 11 (tries DJ Keys, pen RA Mason 2) def by Lake Macquarie 36 (tries W Fraser 2, B Lupematasila, M Tauhinu, BD Holliday, K Ng Lam, con BD Holliday 3) Nelson Bay 57 def University of Newcastle 12 (tries D LeRougetel, D Wells, con F Delli Carpini)