MAITLAND and Cessnock arrive at this weekend's clash as holders of 2020 trophies and without loss in the opening two rounds.
The Coalfields clubs won separate titles in last year's coronavirus-impacted campaign, the Pickers collecting the statewide President's Cup and the Goannas triumphing in the Newcastle Rugby League grand final.
After being washed out first up Maitland easily accounted for hosts Wyong 39-6 on Saturday to ensure they, like Cessnock, are undefeated so far in 2021.
"It's a big one with Cessnock. It's out first home game of the year and it's the two competition winners from 2020 going head-to-head. So it should be a good, healthy contest," Pickers coach Matt Lantry said.
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The Goannas, who beat Wests 20-12 on Thursday night, return to Maitland Sportsground on April 10 for the first time since winning the decider six months ago.
Lantry admitted the Pickers were "rusty" against the Roos at Bill Hicks Oval but still described it as a "good first-up performance" considering it had been around three weeks since a rain-soaked trial against the same club.
"I thought we were a little bit out of sorts, but we were able to absorb pressure early and then went to half-time up 21-0. We got a few points later as well but defensively only leaking six against a good opposition was pleasing," he said.
James Bradley and Jarom Haines both landed doubles for Maitland.
Lantry rated Matt Allwood, who played second-row, as among the Pickers' best.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Macquarie triumphed 22-10 over Souths at Townson Oval but Scorpions mentor Steve Kidd reckons it was "pretty ugly".
"We didn't play well but we'll take the two points and get out of there. Our completion rate was low 50s and you're not going to win too many games like that," Kidd said.
Macquarie captain Liam Higgins had 10 minutes in the sin bin for dissent. Scorpions winger Joe Woodbury crossed twice to make it four tries from two outings.
LADDER: The Entrance, Cessnock 4; Maitland, Macquarie, Central, Wyong 2; Kurri, Wests, Souths, Lakes 0.
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