By GREG WHITE
THE Ken Orr Memorial Shield remains in the clutches of Orara Valley for at least another year following their exciting 30-20 win over Coffs Harbour at Coramba yesterday.
Certainly, there was strong evidence the better side on the day went down, but neither coach would go so far as to admit it.
"You don't find many losing coaches as happy with their team as I am," Comets mentor Scott Mieni said.
"Just twice we dropped our intensity and ultimately this proved fatal. Orara were able to get going again and this got them home."
"Still, we're making every other side sit up and take notice of us," Mieni said proudly.
An exhausted Orara captain-coach Brad Hart said much the same thing.
"Coffs are all class and played that way," he said.
"We still are short of our best and I'm well aware of the things we do wrong.
"Because the top sides are now our opponents it makes us dig deeper to get the points and that's how we won today."
The game was barely a minute old before Coffs were on the scoreboard.
This signalled the ignition of the Orara juggernaut and they quickly crossed for a double before both sides settled in to an enthralling arm wrestle towards the break.
After leading 10-8 at intermission the home side skipped away following the resumption when the Comets' concentration momentarily lapsed.
Shaun Hart returned serve for the visitors but Coffs really got their groove back when Paul Spence intervened.
Taking the ball on his own quarterline the burly centre charged through a gaping hole and headed towards the eastern touchline.
With seemingly the entire Orara squad in hot pursuit he turned back in field, beating man after man, before bursting into open spaces and crossing to the left of the posts.
The conversion had scores level at 20-all and even the competition buzzing with admiration at Spence's achievement.
"What a beautiful thing to watch," Hart admitted.
"Without a doubt the try of the season."
Ironically, it was Hart himself who broke the deadlock.
Finding Coffs suddenly in a defensive quandry he charged from close to the line and scored one of his specials.
Towards the final bell, one more crossing for Orara and they were off the hook.
"Our defence was fantastic again," Mieni said.
"But just those couple of little lapses made all the difference."
Hart admitted defence is also on his mind but for different reasons.
"We know we can tackle. We've proved all season we can tackle," he said.
"It's just that the execution has become a bit rusty and has to be fixed."
With no Warriors game next week Orara get two weeks to freshen up and work on that defence.
They'll need to.
The long-awaited showdown with mighty Macksville is just around the corner.
ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 30 (Scott Lacey, Matt Donovan, Adam McCarthy, Blaize Parter, Brad Hart, Darren Mercy tries; Scott Lacey 3 goals) d COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 20 (Shaun Hart 2, Paul Spence 2 tries; Anthony Donovan goal).
Scrums: Orara Valley 11-10.
Penalties: Coffs Harbour 4-2.
Errors: Orara Valley 11, Coffs Harbour 9.
Best players: Orara Valley -Brant O'Dea, Brad Hart, Brett Davis. Coffs Harbour - Shaun Hart, Paul Spence, Russell Boyns.
Reserve grade: Orara Valley d Coffs Harbour 36-26.
Under 18: Coffs Harbour d Orara Valley 68-0.