THE Greater Northern Tigers under-16 side might have lost its final round game of the Andrew Johns Cup to the Northern Rivers Titans in Armidale on Saturday but it has still qualified for the CRL's Country Championships semi-finals.
While beaten 40-10 by the outstanding Titans, who also qualified (unbeaten) for the play-offs, the Tigers - featuring Group 21 players Daltyn McCartney (Denman), Blake Johnston (Scone), Pichai Dixon (Aberdeen), Sam Fechner (Scone), Hayden Bull (Scone), Luke Smith (Scone) and Nicholas Laurie (Scone) - are still alive and play the top outfit from the southern pool in two weeks.
"It's a bit of a mixed emotion," said Tigers coach Steve Haylen, of Muswellbrook, following Saturday's 30-point loss.
"We got beat but still qualified."
That was by virtue of the Tigers winning their first three games.
"I wanted the boys to give it a good crack today and, to be honest, they did," Haylen said.
"Everyone put their hand up; we just made a few fundamental errors and had a few defensive issues.
"We had a try disallowed as well.
"We now have two weeks to prepare."
He will be hoping prop Mark Simon will be okay after injuring his right knee.
Simon was strong while lock Jock Brazel, the captain, was outstanding.
"He was amazing," Haylen said of the hard-hitting, high work-rated number 13.
He also thought Simon played strongly along with Campbell Watchirs and halfback Pichai Dixon, who scored a brilliant second half try.
"Campbell was great," he said.
"We threw him into the second-row this week and he handled it very well."