Ōtūmoetai Eels coach Grant Sundborn says his side's hard-earned win over rivals the Pāpāmoa Bulldogs was much-needed.
The Eels were 12-6 winners in the round five Waikato Rugby League competition match at Gordon Spratt Reserve on Saturday. Four tries were scored in the Tauranga derby fixture and for the first half hour, the two sides were locked in a scoreless arm wrestle.
The visitors started better but were unable to capitalise on their majority share of territory. When the Bulldogs did break free, they too were unable to score as both sides made handling errors and threw forward passes, a symptom of their aggression with the ball at the line.
Attack was met with stoic defence at both ends of the field and the Eels scored two minutes before halftime when they ran the ball on the final tackle and Josh Tupou scored in the corner.
The second half resumed in similar fashion as the Eels struck again after four minutes when Pone Kahotea finished off a move out wide to score and give his side an 8-0 lead. The Bulldogs showed their grit to hit back in the 58th minute when they used good ball movement to put Ben Yeeles away for the try.
The Eels scored 10 minutes later, Kahotea's scored try, after some good build up play to take a 12-6 lead into the final 10 minutes. The Bulldogs again showed fight, but the score remained to close out an entertaining match.
Sundborn says the win has done his team a world of good.
"Both teams made mistakes and we have been leading at halftime in games this season and given it away, those have been the games where we have beaten ourselves."
A change of approach helped the Eels secure the win as they made the Bulldogs' defence work harder in the second half.
"We were cutting back in and they didn't have to move. We were going straight up the middle and we scored out here [wide]. We practice all this stuff at training and we are not doing it on the field, so we are going to simplify our game plan and what we do at training."
The competition takes a break for Queen's Birthday Weekend this Saturday and it continues the Eels disjointed schedule, coming into week five on the back of the representative weekend and a bye. They play Hukanui when the competition resumes on June 8.
"This week we are hoping to work in the gym, play a game of basketball, and then have a day in the pools before going back to normal the following week.
"We want to get back to basics. We have the belief there and we have had it right from the start, but today's game could have gone either way with our belief or not."
Bulldogs coach Jock Nicholson says his side paid for their mistakes.
"It was a tough battle and the effort was there. There is no doubt about our commitment, attitude and work ethic, but at crucial times we gave the ball away and that is what is hurting us at the moment. These sides are capitalising on that.
"They scored off a mistake and a couple of times we gave the ball straight back to them. We just need to absorb that sort of pressure and be disciplined and composed."
Nicholson says his side will also try something different at training this week before business as usual heading into week six when they take on the Hamilton Hornets.
Waikato Rugby League competition results from Saturday, May 25:
Pāpāmoa Bulldogs 12, Ōtūmoetai Eels 6.
Hukanui 6, Taniwharau 26.
College Old Boys 44, Hamilton City Tigers 4.
Turangawaewae 46, Hamilton Hornets 24.
Pāpāmoa Bulldogs, 24 Ōtūmoetai Eels 56
Ngaruawahia Lions 16, Taniwharau 42.
College Old Boys 38, Hamilton City Tigers 26.
Turangawaewae 54, Hamilton Hornets 0.
Te Awamutu Firehawks 42, Ngaruawahia Panthers 16.