WITH one slight tactical adjustment 25 minutes into the match, Coffs Harbour made sure it would be first side into the 2013 Group 2 Rugby League grand final.
The Comets eventually downed Macksville 36-18 but there was nothing between them in the enthralling early stages.
Coffs were relentlessly pounding away at the Sea Eagles' line but the defensive patterns kept forcing them into oblique angles that made runners easier to pick off.
Enter, Lachie Miller.
Almost immediately the attack straightened and the Comets went over for back-to-back tries following long range breaks from their own end of the park which put Macksville on the back foot.
Although the visitors kept coming back again and again, the gap was too great to make up.
For winning coach Colin Speed, guiding Coffs into a season decider at his first attempt is a mighty achievement.
He gave all the credit to his players.
"The pleasing aspect was sticking to the game plan and structure and having belief in that structure," he said.
With the team still charging hard but in straight lines, opportunities opened up for support play and second phase runners who created plenty of line breaks.
"It's probably an area we've been lacking in, coming into the semis," Speed said.
"Today, execution was great in regards to our push-forward and the rewards came on the end of support play.
"Now there's just one game to go, we've timed it to have a little more up the sleeve.
"In a couple of things there's still a bit of improvement to do but as for today, we're happy to just ride the ride.
"Making the grand final is great and we'll enjoy the moment and then get down to business to prepare for one more run."
Once Coffs Harbour got that jump on them, Macksville dropped the rhythm and the attack went flat.
While they still made few errors, those they did make were absolute clangers.
Twice they failed to find touch from penalties which in normal circumstances is hard to ignore but in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a major semi final is close to catastrophe.
"Fundamental errors like that are terrible," Sea Eagles captain-coach Troy Grace lamented.
"Last week there was nothing like that but this week we couldn't get it right."
Grace agreed that when Coffs Harbour straightened the attack, the speed and the direction of what was coming towards them altered the course of history.
"We scored first and were going great at the start," he said.
"Great to complete those first five or six sets but then started dropping the ball and missing tackles.
"They came straight through the middle and I think every time we made a mistake or gave away a penalty, it was on the fourth or fifth tackle.
"It takes so much out of you and when a side is as fit as Coffs, it's a nightmare to defend against."
Grace said Macksville will regroup on Tuesday night and prepare to host next Sunday's preliminary final visit from Nambucca Heads.
COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 36 (Nathan Curry 2, Lachie Miller 2, Josh Simm, Abel Lefaoseu, Luke Beaumont tries; Nathan Curry 3 goals, Lachie Miller goal) def MACKSVILLE SEA EAGLES 18 (Duane Button, Lance Robertson, Peter Bula tries; Ricky Morris 3 goals)
Scrums: Macksville 10-9
Penalties: Macksville 12-8
Errors: Macksville 8, Coffs Harbour 6
At Geoff King Motors Park, Coffs Harbour
Referee: James Maggio
Reserve grade: Macksville d Nambucca Heads 74-10
Under-18s: Nambucca Heads d Macksville 22-10
Preliminary finals - Sunday, August 11 at Allen Gillett Oval, Macksville
First - Macksville v Nambucca Heads
Reserve - Nambucca Heads v Coffs Harbour
Under-18s - Macksville v Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo
Grand finals - Sunday, August 18 at Geoff King Motors Park, Coffs Harbour
First - Coffs Harbour v ?
Reserve - Macksville v ?
Under 18s - Nambucca Heads v ?
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