By NICK McGRATH
IN the wash-up of yesterday's Group 10 action at Wade Park, Mudgee Dragons captain-coach Mat Stott referred to the mountain his side has to climb in the lead up to the Group 10 premier league finals starting in two week's time.
After the uninspiring effort the Dragons put in throughout a 40-30 win over an Orange Hawks line-up that has been decimated by injuries over the back end of 2012, that mountain must surely now look a lot like Mount Everest.
"We'll just take the two points today," Stott said.
"It was very scrappy but you know, at the end of the day if you're in front when the siren goes that's all that matters."
Importantly for the Dragons, the 10-point win now sits Mudgee back in the top three after Workies defeated Bathurst St Pat's 26-16 in Lithgow yesterday to bump the Saints down to fourth on the 2012 ladder.
But for Mudgee, the ill-discipline, dropped ball and defensive lapses against a Hawks side that tried hard but was never really in the contest with as many as seven players backing up from reserve grade is reason for some concern.
"I think our defensive effort this year has been a little bit below par and that's really something we have to improve on," Stott said, adding there was still plenty of improvement left in a Dragons side that is yet to peak.
"We scored 40 points here but leaked 30, that costs you in a semi-final and against a good side you've really got to be on in defence.
"That's where we're going to try and improve our game in the next week anyway and then look to start to climb the mountain in the semis."
Hawks on the other hand would no doubt be disappointed with the result.
The effort, though, was there for all to see.
It was a game, should the two blues have won, Hawks could have used to propel the club back into the top five and steel them for an assault on the finals.
But sheer lack of numbers meant it wasn't to be.
Although Hawks led 12-6 after Simon Norton and Jared Brodrick pounced on clever kicks from Scott Rosser, Mudgee bounced back through Jared Robinson, Cody Cafe and a double to Corin Smith to soon lead Hawks 30-12.
Brock McGarity scored just before half-time to narrow the margin to 30-18 at the break.
In an uneventful second period, Hawks went on to score three tries to Mitch Hurford, Luke Clarke and Rosser, to Mudgee's two to Jeremy Lang and Robinson but it wasn't enough as the Dragons held on to win by 10 points.
As much as it hurt, Wynne didn't care about the result.
It was all about the effort his players put in that had him "as proud as punch."
"We had a heap of blokes back up after playing a full game of reggies and to tell you the truth, I couldn't be prouder of the guys that have been turning up week-in week-out and they're the same blokes that turn up week-in week-out at training," Wynne said.
"We've got a really good core group of blokes and it's a shame all of those blokes on the fringes aren't having a go as well and putting these guys under pressure.
"But hats off to these boys, I'm as proud as punch."
For Hawks, McGarity, Lawrence Fogg, halfback Rosser and fullback Clarke were the standouts.
"The list goes on. Against a quality side, with just about half your team playing its second game for the day and to compete as well as we did, I thought it was a really good effort," Wynne said.
Chris Ward was strong for the visitors at five-eighth as was Akaroa Akaroa up front.
n MUDGEE DRAGONS 40 (Corin Smith 2, Jared Robinson 2, Chris Ward, Cody Cafe, Jeremy Lang tries; Mat Stott 6 goals) def ORANGE HAWKS 30 (Jared Brodrick, Scott Rosser, Simon Norton, Luke Clarke, Brock McGarity, Mitch Hurford tries; McGarity 3 goals).