Finals basketball may now be out of reach for the Hills District Hornets after a tight 88-80 loss to Newcastle Hunters.
The eight-point loss leaves the Hornets stranded in ninth place and three points outside the top six.
Round 16 was always going to be a tough assignment for the Hornets. They started brightly leading 24-21 at quarter time.
The Hornets maintained their pressure on the competition frontrunners in the second quarter, leading 50-39 at half-time.
It wasn't to last. The Hunters unleashed a point-scoring barrage in the third term to regain control of the game.
Newcastle won the third term and held off a fast-finishing Hornets to retain top spot on the competition ladder.
On Saturday, the Hornets take on 10th-placed Penrith Panthers in a crucial test of hopes for the finals.
Polecats look good
The Norwest Polecats 2s have started their quest for rugby league finals with an impressive 36-12 win against the Newcastle Seahorses 2s.
With the finals only five matches away, the Polecats had to start strongly, and did with tries to Ray Wilesmith and Nic Jelic.
The Polecats were ahead 18-4 at half-time never looked back on their way to a 24-point win.