WANDERERS coach Dan Beckett labelled the Two Blues' defence "embarrassing" in the loss to Hamilton in the final round.
On Saturday, he had nothing but praise for it after Wanderers shut down Maitland 35-19 in the qualifying semi-final at No.2 Sportsground.
What's more, the coach said the turnaround had nothing to do with him.
"The boys took ownership of it," Beckett said. "They ran it themselves and spoke about how we were going to defend and what was needed. We knew that Maitland would attack us in close. The boys led that themselves. It didn't have anything to do with me. They owned it and then put their money where their mouth was.
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"Maitland are a really good side and we knew they would come at us. Guys like Chase Hicks and Tim Marsh, they are so quick, and when Maitland went wide they were able to cover them. The commitment that the boys showed was really pleasing. And we are going to have to maintain that intensity if we are to keep moving forward."
With Wanderers ahead 15-7 and Dan Kevill in the sinbin, the Two Blues defended their own line for 10 minutes.
Twice they held Maitland up in the in-goal, they stole a lineout, drove Chris Martin into touch and threw bodies at everything.
"That 10-minute period just before half-time where we held them out with a man in the bin was crucial," Beckett said.
Wanderers then took control, scoring three tries in a 15-minute burst to open a 32-7 lead. Game over.
Maitland coach Matt Thomas, though admitting the Blacks were their own worst enemy, believed his players were subject to a series of high tackles that went unpunished by the officials.
"I won't cite. I don't go down that track," he said. "I will ask the referees to explain the amount of high tackles we had on our players that weren't called."
Two of Wanderers' six tries came from intercepts on their own line and another was from a dropped ball by Maitland which was toed ahead twice.
"The pressure we applied ... some of the tries that we scored from dropped balls and intercepts, were a result of our energy," Beckett said.
Thomas said the Blacks lacked composure in attack and paid the price.
"We cannot give an opposition, the quality of Wanderers, three length of the field tries," he said. "We just weren't patient enough. We will learn from that."
Wanderers will be without Kevill, who picked up his third yellow card for the season, for the major semi-final against minor premiers Hamilton at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
The Blacks, who had Max Stafford, Marcus Christensen and Chris Martin given yellow cards for professional fouls in the second half, have a number of players under an injury cloud for the minor semi-final against Merewether.
"Mick Howell, Josh McCormack, Marcus Christensen, Harry Chapman, Dan Runchel, Travis Brooke ... they are all black and blue," Thomas said. "But we will lift. That's for sure."
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