Pickers coach Matt Lantry described it as a "special win" but he wasn't "looking too far ahead" after a fast-starting Maitland hung on to defeat Hills Bulls 22-18 in a top-of-the-table clash at Crestwood Reserve on Sunday.
The four-point win, minus a few key players including Brock Lamb, means Maitland remain unbeaten after the opening three rounds of the statewide President's Cup and now sit alongside the Glebe Burwood Wolves in first place on the NSW Rugby League competition ladder.
The Pickers have accounted for the Bulls, Dubbo CYMS and the Wentworthville Magpies, however, Lantry played down any title aspirations despite their perfect record so far in 2020.
"Any team can turn up and win on their day, it's that type of competition," Lantry said.
"We're not looking too far ahead. We're three from three and now we'll reassess with the bye and go from there.
"It's a really good start but I think we've got a lot of improvement in us. What I'd like to see is more consistency across the 80 minutes."
The Pickers were quick out of the blocks against Hills, scoring almost a point per minute for the opening 20 with tries to Matt Soper-Lawler, Daniel Langbridge and James Bradley.
Hills hit back twice via converted tries and landed a penalty goal on the brink of half-time to make it 18-14 at the break.
Willis Alatini, in his last game for Maitland before heading back home to native New Zealand, gave the visitors an eight-point advantage before Zacchues Chong-Nee's second halved that margin.
Lantry said the Pickers defended the last five sets of the game.
"We'll savour this one, it was a special win," he said.
"We were up 18-0 after 20 minutes, completed all 11 sets and just dominated. The next 20 minutes was the complete reverse.
"The second half we did well to get the job done and kept turning them away at the end. There's a bit of character in this footy side."
Lantry said he was pleased with way his squad "adapted" to personnel changes with Lamb rulled out Friday night after training because of a hamstring strain. This saw Langbridge move to halfback, Soper-Lawler shift to fullback and Bradley go to centre.
Marvin Filipo also started in the second-row with Henry Penn unavailable and Ben Ireland came onto the bench.
James Taylor was already out injured while Pat Mata'utia and Sam Mataora remain sidelined with work commitments.
Lantry said lock Sam Anderson was "exceptional in the middle", playing 70 minutes straight.
In other President's Cup fixtures Glebe Burwood easily accounted for Wentworthville 53-16 at Henson Park, Thirroul were downed 38-16 by hosts North Sydney and Dubbo CYMS beat Western Rams 28-10 at Apex Oval.
Maitland, who have this weekend off, return at home against the Western Rams on August 15.
In round three of Newcastle Rugby League it was Wyong who prevailed in another close encounter, claiming a last-minute 24-19 victory over Souths at Mory Breen Oval on Sunday.
Nick O'Meley took a cross-field chip and scored in the corner to put the Roos ahead just prior to full-time after Lions playmaker Jason Keelan had slotted a field goal to make it 19-18.
Elsewhere on Sunday and Lakes breezed past Maitland at Cahill Oval with Oskar Muir and Cody Robbins both scoring hat-tricks in a 60-6 triumph.
Saturday saw the Goannas edge out Western Suburbs 22-18 at Cessnock Sportsground with Brayden Musgrove returning with one of five tries for the home side.
PRESIDENT'S CUP: Glebe Burwood, Maitland 6; North Sydney, Hills 4; Wests Illawarra, Thirroul, Dubbo CYMS 2; Western Rams, Wentworthville 0.
NEWCASTLE RL: Central, Wyong 6; Cessnock, Lakes 4; Wests, Souths 2; Maitland 0.
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