FEW problems were experienced by Sawtell in their 34-10 disposal of Port Macquarie at Rex Hardaker Oval today.
The visiting Sharks faced an uphill battle before the commencement when Group 2 representative front-rower Kurt Molony was a late withdrawal, along with inspirational skipper Michael Bright.
They supplemented the side with four youngsters who had already completed a full under-18 match and while they battled on bravely, the experienced Panthers were too classy and never in danger of losing.
Victorious co-coach Damian Irvine was a tower of strength in the front line of battle and said the team was still evolving.
"We're still working on a bit of stuff and execution in certain areas still needs some detail," he said.
"It's happening bit by bit but I'm pleased we are getting there."
Sawtell opened the scoring against the run of play when Port prop Danny Graham had an uncustomary brain snap, popping a ball into the waiting arms of rival hooker Nick English who promptly turned on his heel and scooted 80 metres to the opposite end of the park.
The Sharks hit back immediately but the next two crossings by the home side ensured they were destined to be in catch-up mode for the rest of the afternoon.
The Panthers led 18-10 at the break and the refreshed Sharks scrambled hard as the second period got underway to give the impression they might still make a race of it.
But a try to Warren Jarrett broke their hearts and while the towel was never thrown in, Sawtell remained firmly in control.
One of the features of the game was Sharks coach Anthony Fenton's handling of interchanges.
He waited until the 58th minute to make his first player swap by sending out Jamahl Tobey to hold down a wing spot and made just one more change before 80 minutes had expired.
"It's unusual I suppose but they kept giving everything and nobody wanted to come off for a break," he said.
"The boys had a crack and really played well but we lacked depth on the day.
"I'm grateful to the boys sitting on the bench who put their hands up to play but they lacked experience and I didn't want to send them out if it wasn't necessary."
Apart from Irvine, the Panthers were well served by speedy lock Dean McLaughlan, evergreen centre Nathan 'Shorty' Davies and rookie prop Josh Lewis who was eventually replaced late in the game after a nasty head clash opened up his forehead.
However, nuggetty pivot Troy Robinson turned in another polished performance, always knowing the right part of the field where he could turn up unannounced and cause maximum damage to the opponents.
"Being in front at half time, I didn't think we would lose but you still have to turn up and complete your sets so the other mobs don't come back and surprise you," Irvine said.
"Blokes can get carried away by wanting to score tries and we were guilty of that again.
"There's a break next weekend and that's something we'll address before we come back to play in two weeks."
SAWTELL PANTHERS 34 (J Fogarty 2 N English D McLaughlin D Quinn W Jarrett tries D Russell 5 goals) bt PORT MACQUARIE SHARKS 10 (D Holten T Nelson tries E McKenna goal)
Scrums: Port Macquarie 14-4
Penalties: Port Macquarie 8-5
Errors: Port Macquarie 11, Sawtell 8
At Rex Hardaker Oval, Toormina
Referee: Jason Townley
Reserve grade: Port Macquarie bt Sawtell 24-18
Under 18s: Port Macquarie bt Sawtell 34-30
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