A "patchy performance" has seen the Pirates lose to the Moree Bulls for the second time this season.
A packed crowd at Ken Chillingworth Oval watched on as Pirates tried to claw their way back into the game after allowing the Bulls to pile on three early tries.
Strong efforts from seasoned campaigners such as Bart Leach and Dough Biffen saw the home side come within eight points of the Bulls early in the second half.
However, three late penalty goals was enough to see the visitors get across the line, with the final score reading 31-26.
Pirates captain Conrad Starr told the Leader an inconsistent performance cost his side the game.
"One of our biggest problems at the moment is that we are a bit patchy with our performance," Starr said.
"We need to put 80 minutes together.
"We shouldn't have given them a three-try head start early in the game, and we will need to be a lot better than that if we want to be contenders this year."
Starr was at the forefront of the Pirates' comeback, crossing for a try midway through the second half.
"The boys did rally hard in the second half," he said.
"A few things didn't go our way today [Saturday], but there was some positive signs there still."
Bulls captain Nathan Ebbett described the win as a "stake in the ground" for his side.
"That win is a big step forward for us and now we need to keep stepping forward every week," Ebbett said.
"We will start to build towards September now."
Ebbett said his side "showed a fair bit of character" throughout the five-point win.
"I was really happy with how the forwards stood up," he said.
"We knew it was going to be a hard ask for everyone up front and our backs had to work off the ball, which I reckon everyone did, which was good.
"Mathew Wannan is always a rock for us and it was great having John Adams back in the side for us as well."
The Bulls will now look to their next clash against the Quirindi Lions at home.
As for Pirates, the assignments get tougher as they prepare to take on the Walcha Rams on their home ground.
"It's going to be another tough game for us, so we will have to train pretty hard this week," Starr said.
"We will have a few things to fix up to ensure we are ready for next week."