ST PAT'S went into Saturday's last Peter McDonald Premiership game of the regular season knowing that they'd already made finals, but after a lackluster opening half from his team Zac Merritt tore into his side like their campaign was on the line.
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The words from the Saints player-coach resonated with his squad and they would run out to a convincing 40-4 success against the Lithgow Workies Wolves at Jack Arrow Sporting Complex.
Lithgow, with only their pride to play for, turned up ready to offer a challenge to Pat's and thanks to a try from Greg Alderson they would find themselves down only 10-4 at the break and in with a chance at a big upset.
Pat's didn't want to go into next weekend's last round bye with that result to their name and started to produce a more sensible and controlled brand of football in the second half.
Seven different players scored the Saints' seven tries across the 80 minutes.
It now means the Pat's top grade side can rest up and look forward to their first taste of finals in six years, after their 2021 Group 10 finals campaign couldn't get underway due to the competition's COVID-19 cancellation.
Merritt said that while the opening half was some of the least pleasing football he's seen from his side in recent times it showed a lot of character among the squad to learn from their mistakes.
"In the first half we were below the standards of our club and I gave them a bit of a serve at half-time, which I haven't done this year," he said.
"I think that was warranted. To then score 30 points in the second half, I was pretty happy with that.
"Early on it was an attitude thing for us. That's to take nothing away from Lithgow, who certainly turned up ready to rattle us a bit, but we really weren't playing the way that we should have been."
Merritt said that attitude shift came on both sides of the ball for the Saints.
"We started to play the way that we like to play in the second half, moving the ball a little quicker and turning up a little bit better in defence and forcing Lithgow to work a bit harder coming out of their own end," he said.
"I'm really happy to see those 30 points come off the back of that in the second half."
The bye in the last round has generated mixed feelings for the Saints camp.
It will give the club an opportunity to rest up from a couple of niggling injuries but it also denies the team the chance to keep the momentum going into the knockout stages.
For Lithgow, they'll have a second opportunity to try and spring an upset on a Bathurst opponent when they end their season next round against the Panthers.
With Panthers losing to Orange CYMS on Saturday evening it now means St Pat's are guaranteed to finish third on the Group 10 table.
Their Group 11 opponent for the first round of finals will be the Parkes Spacemen, who also can't move from fourth place on their ladder with one round remaining.
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