If you were thinking about putting a pen through Orange Hawks' premiership chances after the last few weeks, you can toss the Sharpie in the bin right now.
That's because Willie Heta celebrated his 35th birthday in scintillating style on Sunday as the Two blues eviscerated Mudgee on the back of an enormous effort from returning front rower Saul Houma, the big fella bagging a hat-trick of tries in a 52-6 Group 10 demolition.
Coming into the contest, pundits would have expected the previously-undefeated Dragons to take care of business, but after the home side repelled the Red V for the opening five minutes, it was a Hawks avalanche.
Houma opened the hosts' account with a barnstorming effort in the 8th minute, carrying a convoy of Mudgee defenders over the try line.
When the Dragons committed an error on the ensuing kick-off, it was the bulldozing prop who struck again, this time charging onto an inside ball from hooker Alex Prout and crashing over the stripe in the 15th minute.
With the Dragons on the back foot and defending their own goal line again, Alex Prout threw a dummy and darted through a gaping hole, leaving spectators somewhat gobsmacked at 18-0.
And while the home side eventually cracked the 50-burger on the back of some sensational attack, it was effort and defence that left the skipper most proud.
"The most pleasing thing about that win was attitude... that's what we lacked in the last two performances," Heta said.
"We had a couple of weeks to repair a few injuries and work on a few things and it showed today.
You couldn't talk about the contest without mentioning the efforts of big Houma, and even though he only played 40-odd minutes, his impact was massive.
"He sort of started that momentum for us. You'd rather him on your side than the other," he said.
"He's going to take five-six defenders with him when he's running. I'm pleased to have him back out on the paddock and getting some mileage in the legs.
"If that's how he's going to set the tempo for us this season, that's only going to please myself and Bobby [Wycamp].
After the opening three tries, it was young winger Mitch Watts who scored the home side's fourth as Heta spotted an overlap before chipping it past Corin Smith and into the hands of speedster.
Marcel Ikinofo added to the damage as he scored a relatively soft meat pie from dummy half, driving over the try-line and rendering the game all-but finished by the half-an-hour mark.
The Dragons started the second half much like the first, as fill-in halfback Cody Godden crashed over the line in the 43rd minute for what would be the side's only breakthrough.
Rakai Tuheke got the Hawks' back to scoring ways just four minutes later as he sliced through Mudgee's right-side defence before beating fullback Jayden Brown to plant the ball down.
Debutant Ben Blimka added to Mudgee's misery as he darted down the short side before channeling his inner Matt Gidley, flicking a pass onto the chest of winger Jordan Baker who helped bring the scores to 36-6.
Hawks' highlight reel was massive on Sunday, but Baker's second try was not only the best four-pointer of the afternoon, but a genuine try-of-the-year candidate.
It started with an errant Toby Westcott bomb as the Hawks' pivot shanked a kick from inside his own half as it bounced up about 40 metres out from Mudgee's own line.
Luckily for the two blues, Ben Blimka was there to pounce on the Steeden as he immediately threw another sensational flick pass to Willie Heta who nudged a kick towards the try line for a chasing Jordan Baker.
The flying winger had to speed past two Dragons backs, but he won the race to the ball before getting a bounce straight from room service to put it over the line.
Mitch Watts and Saul Houma closed the game out for the Hawks, wrapping up what was one of the best performances in recent history.
Dragons' captain-coach Jack Littlejohn was filthy with his squad after the contest, not necessarily because they lost, but because it was largely self-inflicted.
"We just weren't up for it," Littlejohn said.
"I was sort of feeling it in the warm-up and it felt like that all week, really. We sort of lacked numbers at training and that's what happens when you don't show up during the week... you go out there and get toweled up."
When a side gets off to slow start to the season, you might be able to understand lack of troops at training, but after an undefeated opening month, Littlejohn was puzzled at the lack of commitment.
"Normally when you get off to a start like we have, everyone's sort of buzzing," he said.
"I can't really explain this. We were just flat all week and I felt it coming. They're a strong side across the park and we didn't respect them today."
It's worth noting that Mudgee was missing several players from its regular 13, but Littlejohn wasn't prepared to use that as an excuse, suggesting the replacements were "more than capable" of getting the job done for his side.
ORANGE HAWKS 52 (Tries; Saul Houma 3, Jordan Baker 2, Mitch Watts 2, Rakai Tuheke, Marcel Ikinofo, Alex Prout. Conversions; Willie Heta 4, Toby Westcott 2) defeated MUDGEE DRAGONS 6 (Tries; Cody Godden. Conversions; unknown).
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