LOWER Clarence Magpies have the fight of their lives on their hands to lift themselves off the bottom of the NRRRL ladder following a 30-16 loss to Evans Head at the Maclean Showground on Saturday.
It was an improved showing from the Magpies who were coming off consecutive canings at the hands of the Kyogle Turkeys and Grafton Ghosts.
For three-quarters of the contest, Lower Clarence stayed with the fourth-placed Evans Head Bombers but two late tries let the visitors run away with the game.
Strong work up front by Lower Clarence enforcers Ryan Binge and Curtis Laurie ensured that the Magpies' creative backline had a good platform and was allowed some room to move for one of the few times this season.
Some questionable refereeing decisions went against the Magpies at crucial moments and Lower Clarence captain-coach Grant Brown was left ruing what he viewed as a poor refereeing performance.
"I wasn't very impressed with the refereeing to tell you the truth and it's hard for the boys to have big decisions like that go against them after so much effort," Brown said.
While unhappy with the referees, Brown was full of praise for his squad which is showing improvement on a week-to-week basis.
"Ryan Binge played great, he turned up like he always does and Curtis Laurie was really good too ... they both really stood up for us," Brown said.
Veteran centre Mark Laurie was outstanding for the Magpies, along with rookie halfback Norm Williams who had his best game of the season.
"Norm and Mark played really good for us, especially Mark out in the centres, he defended really well," Brown said.
While Brown remains positive, it is back to the drawing board for the Magpies who are still searching for that elusive first win of the season.
Brown has no doubts about what he needs to do with his team to get them there.
"Fitness, we faded late in the game, so there is going to be a lot of fitness work this week at training," he said.