A HAT trick of tries from Jamie Mitchell has helped guide the Gunnedah Red Devils to a comfortable 50-15 win over the Quirindi Lions.
Playing in front of a packed crowd at Gunnedah Rugby Park, Mitchell scored three tries in a row to help the home side take a 36-3 lead into the half-time break.
From there, the Lions tried manfully to stop the Red Devils' onslaught and restricted them to just 14 points in the second half, while adding 12 points to their own tally.
Lions coach Col McKenzie said his side was left to lament a "poor start" to the game.
"We knew Gunnedah was going to be tough to beat at their home ground on Ladies Day," McKenzie said.
"Before the game we had made a point of starting well and trying to match it with them, which sadly we weren't able to do.
"Still, we are a young side and there was a lot of positives to take out of that second-half effort."
Red Devils second rower Matt Roseby, who scored a try in the 54th minute, said Mitchell's performance was "inspirational".
"Jamie was just fantastic and the boys really put together a good game to get the victory," Roseby said.
"We had a game plan that we spoke about on Thursday night and we executed it quite well in the first half.
"Quirindi are always a tough opponent, it doesn't matter where either team is on the ladder.
"But this win will give us a bonus point and keep us in the hunt for a semi final."
Roseby said the win could be "a turning point" in the Red Devils' season.
"We were obviously disappointed to let last week's game against Pirates slip through our fingers," he said.
"In the next two games we have Moree away and Walcha at home, so today's [Saturday's] win is certainly going to help."
Roseby said the side's set pieces would hold them in good stead in their upcoming clashes with the ladder leaders.
"We pride ourselves on our scrums and our lineouts," he said.
"It has been something we have worked hard at as a group throughout the season and will hopefully be a strength of ours going forward."
The Lions will now look ahead to their next clash against the Scone Brumbies.