AS far as Taree City's concerned the more things change, the more they remain the same in Group Three Rugby League.
The Bulls again managed to lead a team - on this occasion Forster-Tuncurry - at halftime. And the Bulls found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline at fulltime.
Taree's almost made an art form of this as they have led their last three matches at the break. The Bulls held an 18-12 advantage over the Hawks only to go down 24-18. Taree now has just one match to play this season and it's a road trip to Kempsey next Sunday to meet Macleay Valley. For the third time since 2008 the Bulls will finish with the wooden spoon.
Not that Forster-Tuncurry's season has been much better. The Hawks have now won three games and won't be playing finals football this year for the first time in nearly a decade.
The difference between the Bulls and the Hawks was the fact that Forster have a few experienced heads to guide them around the park. Troy Hilder is well and truly in the veteran class, but he still possesses a smart football brain, even if he was given 10 minutes in the bin by referee Clinton Thomas, who was making his debut in first grade.
A quick thinking try to halfback Dylan Prestwidge seconds before halftime was the turning point for the Hawks. Taree led 18-6 at the time and look set to go to the sheds with that buffer. But Prestwidge planted the ball under the posts from close range just as the siren sounded and Hilder landed the goal.
The game befitted the standard of the side coming second last against the team running stone motherless. Both sides were guilty of making plenty of unforced errors although the closeness of the scores kept the sparse crowd involved.
Another Forster veteran, second rower Dean Basham was given 10 minutes by Thomas for an incident involving busy Taree halfback Mick Henry in the first half. He deserved a tougher sanction.
Taree started on a positive note when second rower Ash Currey, who had a solid game, brushed off tackles close to the line. However the usually reliable Luke Murray started what was to be an ordinary day with the boot by missing the conversion.
The Hawks replied with a try to hardworking second rower James Handford and Hilder's goal made it 6-4. The tries kept coming with Tim Alliston and Ethan Currey crossing for the Bulls, Currey's effort worthy of mention when he managed to regain possession off a kick that appeared to be heading out. Alliston and Murray then worked a move before Currey finished off in the corner.
But Taree's hopes of a winning bonus was snuffed by midway through the second half after the Hawks kept applying the pressure. In turn the Bulls generally coughed up the ball when they had possession. Soon enough it was 18-18 then Taree managed to concede a penalty late in the tackle count. From the next six Chris Simon was over for the Hawks and Hilder added the extras.
"They know how to lose a game these blokes,'' a Taree supporter muttered at fulltime.
Amen to that.