Comets prove numbers can deceive

Rookie hooker James Sanders fires out a classic pass in today's Coffs Harbour win against Macksville to the approval of veteran Darren Blackett.
Rookie hooker James Sanders fires out a classic pass in today's Coffs Harbour win against Macksville to the approval of veteran Darren Blackett. Leigh Jensen

IF RAW statistics ruled the outcome of rugby league matches, Coffs Harbour would have been smashed by Macksville today in their meeting at Advocate Park.

Instead, the Comets finished with a 28-12 victory despite ending up well behind on every tally (see below) covering scrums, penalties and handovers-in-possession.

"There were just two completions in the second half and the reason I know that is because we scored tries off both of them," winning coach Steve Gooley said.

"Instead we relied on defence and in the slop it was pretty good.

"Nobody could help the way the ball handled - it was very soapy and slippery and nearly impossible to hang on to - so I'm not going to worry about that aspect as putting the other blokes down made all the difference in the end."

Almost as an omen for what was to come, Macksville five-eighth Tyler Doolan knocked-on from the kick-off.

Quickly they put that blemish behind them and after working play into the Comets' quarter, half Jake Fuller took on the defensive line and slipped a neat pass to David Pickvance to open the scoring.

Coffs replied in similar fashion through the combination of Nathan Curry and Scott Street before Ryan Hall raced 70 metres to score the try that put the home side into a lead they never relinquished.

Some claimed there was doubt over the try after Coffs knocked on following a Macksville turnover but with touch judge Jim Thompson closest to the incident, there was no real protest and play was allowed to continue.

In his first outing as captain-coach of the Sea Eagles, Troy Grace agreed the start could have been better.

"Our big thing was to make sure of completions but putting the ball down first up sort of set the scene," he said.

"We muscled up on the back of that and the effort was there but little things started to go wrong and we couldn't make up the gap."

As so often happens, the period either side of the break proved crucial.

For 10 minutes leading into half time, the Comets repelled wave after wave of Macksville attackers driving at the in-goal.

Then, a try went begging after Fuller prised open a gap but hooker Lucas Grace lost control as he headed across the line.

Three minutes after the resumption, the third Grace brother - referee Nathan - recalled Pickvance who looked try-bound after scooping up a loose ball and from that moment, momentum swung bit by bit to the Comets.

"I missed the thing with 'Piggsy' but I recall the one where we should have scored under the posts," Grace lamented.

"If the ball had come to me or if it had gone cleanly to little brother it would have drawn us level and a bit more luck could have put us in front.

"Late in the game we started sliding off tackles and the handling got worse in the wet but you have to remember these blokes are all still pretty young and we're still making our way."

Coffs got their second wind.

Lock Vikram Atwal made sure the gap would widen further when he bullocked across from 30 metres out and managed to break four tackle in the process.

By that stage, coach Gooley was more concerned with stopping a Macksville try and while the visitors did manage to find consolation in the last crossing, Coffs will head to the free weekend sharing fourth spot on the ladder and ready to launch in two weeks against Nambucca Heads.

"If we get back to the dry, I know the handling will get better," he added.

"The team has a few (injury) niggles so we are looking for the break to get in shape for the second round."

COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 28(S Street 2 R Hall V Atwal D Blackett tries S Street 4 goals) bt MACKSVILLE SEA EAGLES 12 (D Pickvance J Fuller tries D Pickvance 2 goals)

Scrums: Macksville 15-10

Penalties: Macksville 13-5

Errors: Coffs Harbour 19, Macksville 16

At Advocate Park, Coffs Harbour

Referee: Nathan Grace

Reserve grade: Coffs Harbour bt Macksville 36-18

Under18s: Coffs Harbour bt Macksville 14-12

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