ALTHOUGH a bitter spill to swallow, coach Ross Duncan is adamant Newcastle University learnt a valuable lesson after a disappointing finish to the opening round of the AON series at Woollahra Oval on Sunday.
After winning two of the pool games, including a thrilling 14-10 triumph over Sydney University, on Saturday to be placed second, they lost the semi and bronze play-off matches on Sunday.
They were pipped 12-10 by Sydney University, who went on to beat UTS in the final, and then went down 17-12.
"We had the opportunities today but didn't finish it off," Duncan said. "Some it was skills against us, some of it was our silly mistakes.
"There were a couple of critical errors on our own behalf or we compounded an error that was turned into a penalty. At this level you can't get away with it.
"Also a bit of defensive structure stuff. We shot out of the line instead of trusting an outside or inside player.
"It was a frustrating day, a disappointing day. It was also a good indication of how close the competition is."
Jesse Southwell, Kaitlan Leaney and Jesse Gentle had moments of brilliance but Duncan said they had a number of different players step up over the weekend.
Newcastle enter the second qualifier, which is being held on home soil at No.2 Sportsground on April 10-11, in fourth place. The top three from round two in Newcastle and the top three from Pool A, which is being played in Brisbane, progress to the national finals.
Newcastle will be boosted with the addition of Australian dup Faith Nathan and Madison Higgins.
"We have been fairly lucky with our allocation of players," Duncan said. "That will be a massive add to us. In saying that it will be hard to leave two of our girls out as well."