REBELS coach Adam Bettridge was pleased with the performance of his frontline "spine" and unfazed by the final score as Newcastle Rugby League's representative players battled the heat in a trial at Cessnock Sportsground on Saturday.
Hooker Luke Huth was "outstanding" along with fullback Cameron Anderson and halves combination Chad O'Donnell and Bayden Searle, however, the Rebels ultimately conceded six straight tries in the second half.
Having kept opponents the Knights (NSW Cup) scoreless in the opening 40 minutes and leading 24-0 just after the main break, the Rebels lost the match 32-24.
With afternoon temperatures reaching as high as 37 degrees Celcius in the Coalfields, Bettridge admits it was "challenging" for those out in the middle and especially against a squad that started training together prior to Christmas.
Huth, a former Australian Schoolboy who has signed with the Goannas in 2023 after time in the Knights system, caught the eye of the new Rebels mentor.
"He only played the first 20 or 25 minutes, but he was outstanding," Bettridge said.
"Cessnock have got themselves a really good hooker this season, you just saw some of what he's got to offer.
"I thought he fitted in really well and he'll only be better for the run."
Bettridge was impressed by the work of Huth, custodian Anderson, five-eighth O'Donnell and halfback Searle, returning after a broken leg left him sidelined for last year's finals series.
"I thought our spine in the first half in particular did a great job," he said.
"The first 40 minutes is exactly what we wanted to get out of it [the trial]."
Bettridge gave credit to the way the Knights responded in the second half.
He also mentioned a minor knock for second-rower Lincoln Smith, but says "everyone came through unscathed".
The Rebels will conduct a game review on Wednesday before resuming normal sessions at Raymond Terrace next week.
Round one of the NSW Country Championships has Newcastle facing neighbours Central Coast at Morry Breen Oval on March 4.
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