New England finished off their Country Championship campaign on a high, defeating Western Plains 27-17 in their play-off on Sunday.
Trailing 10-5 at half-time after the Plainsmen kicked a penalty goal on the siren, the Lions hit the front in the opening minutes of the second half courtesy of a rolling maul, and were never headed from there.
It was a good way to finish, Lions co-coach Luke Stephen said.
"Really happy with how the guys have come together in the time frame to play some good footy across both days," he said.
On Saturday they were outclassed by a "superior" Far North Coast side 48-8.
The Lions came our roaring and had a couple of early penalty attempts, which in both instances fell short.
But after that early spurt they found themselves on the backfoot, NSW Country Eagle and former Australian sevens rep Alex Gibbon cutting them apart in the midfield as the eventual champions put on a masterclass to lead 36-3 at half-time.
It would have been easy for the Lions to drop their heads but they didn't, and after showing good resolve in the second half, Stephen said it was good to be able to continue that effort on Sunday.
Stephen said a big part of their success against the Plainsman was the direction Cooper Thompson's boot gave them, and their physicality.
"We went north and south and we were able to generate good pressure in the second half when the game was there to be taken," he said.
In the first half he thought they were probably a bit guilty of playing a bit too sideways but in the second half they played a lot more direct, and got good pay from that.
He said the players will take a lot away from the weekend, and felt there were some encouraging signs moving forward from a zone perspective.
"Every club had a player that really stood up and that's encouraging for the future of New England rugby," he said.
"We do turn over a lot of players but if we can us that core group of players that are going to be in the region for five, six, seven years then we've got the makings of a potentially competitive program."
He paid credit to the commitment of the players that put their hand up to be involved, especially the Tamworth contingent, who travelled up to train in the sleet and the snow on Monday night.
Former St Albert's College premiership-winning prop Charlie French was part of the Central West team who took out the Caldwell Cup.