Bulldogs, ahead 16-10 at the break against Arorangi Bears on Saturday, were unable to maintain their lead after the visitors staged a dramatic comeback in the second spell to level the score.
A well-orchestrated play from the Bears in the latter stages of the match at Teimurimotia Park proved too much for the Bulldogs, who were lucky to come away with a draw.
“We did spoil some opportunities that we created because we lacked the execution, but at the end of the day it came down to the preparation,” said Noovao, who was called up in the eleventh hour to guide the team.
“We did okay in trying to maintain that good momentum we set in the opening half but we were unable to carry that into the latter stages of the second half.”
Noovao said being the defending champion was a challenge as other teams were after their scalp.
“We have to be a bit more respectful to ourselves and especially towards our opponent and be prepared mentally and physically for footy,” he said.
“Nevertheless, it was a great effort from the boys. We would have loved to win the first game but I guess it’s a good wakeup call for us. We just have to improve from this and do better in our next game.”
Noovao also raised questions about the standard of officiating, claiming most of the calls went against his side.
Meanwhile, stand-in Bears coach Kevin Iro was pleased with his team’s effort in the feature match of round two.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more. We were down 16-12 in the first half but the boys stuck to their guns. It was a really wet day and both sides made a lot of errors but we battled away and were lucky to get a draw,” Iro said.
“It was a good game, both teams went toe to toe and the result spoke for itself.”
In the other premier match played on Saturday, Tupapa Panthers thumped Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles 56-6. The postponed TKV Warriors versus Avatiu Eels match was played yesterday.