The New England Nomads took an understrength lineup to Inverell on Saturday to take on the Saints and the player shortage did the side no favours as they fell for their second loss this year.
A host of senior players including coach Tom Hunt, Cameron Graham, Luke Raymond, Tim Keys and Velani Chakalisa were missing for the reigning premiers when they went down 14.16-100 to 5.7-37.
Player and Nomads president Adrian Walsh said even though they were down on troops, there was “still no excuse” to suffer the defeat.
“We had a fair few out but those who were there should have done better than they did,” he said.
“They [Inverell] played well too on their home turf.
“We had a number of kids playing and a couple of guys that hadn't played before.
“We didn't do as well as we could have.”
The run into the finals doesn’t get any easier for the Nomads who take on ladder leaders Gunnedah in Armidale this Saturday.
Walsh said the club expect another hard game against the Bulldogs.
“[It will be] much, much tougher and again we have people out because it is uni holidays now,” he said.
“We are just going to have to run the ball.
“They play similar sort of football to us, we need shut down some of their runners and we need to run it ourselves as quick as possible.
“Unfortunately we will have a few out including Dave Richards so that will make things a bit harder. We will see what happens.”
The Armidale-based team have seen little on-field action over the last two months.
Walsh said it has been a struggle to keep motivated and the side will have to step up if they want to feature in the decider again this year.
“We've hardly had a decent run,” he said.
“We've only played two games in the last two months so it is not great for developing momentum and so on.
“Going into the finals, I still think we can win it but we are really going to have to knuckle down.”