Action from the first semi-final between North Coffs and Sawtell on Saturday. Photo: TREVORVEALE
Action from the first semi-final between North Coffs and Sawtell on Saturday. Photo: TREVORVEALE

Defending premiers keep their AFL title hopes alive

By CHRIS McKINLEY

THE Saints may not have marched all the way in yet but Sawtell took a very big step towards defending their AFL North Coast crown on Saturday.

From the outset, the reigning premiers were dominating their 1st Semi Final clash with North Coffs and if it weren't for inaccurate kicking there would've been a fat lady singing at the International Stadium very early in the piece.

The Saints led by 19 points at the main break but kicking 4.11 to that stage, the door was left slightly ajar for North Coffs as the margin should've been greater.

Saints captain Luke Matthews started on the ball Saturday, a long way from his usual close to goal position.

Along with Les Cohen and Mark Couzens, Matthews was a big part of the Saints getting off to a quick start.

"We stressed that we were lacking from the first bounce lately and that we'd been waiting until the second quarter to get going," the captain explained.

"I think we were prepared this week, we had a big week on the track and from the first bounce we were first to the ball and we were hard at the ball.

"We're a persistent team and we try to go hard as we can at the ball for four quarters."

Hard at the ball was the feature of the game.

Players from both sides threw themselves into contests with almost reckless abandon at times, showing no concern for their safety and at times, the safety of others.

"Of all the games we played this year, that was the hardest that we've had by far," Matthews added.

"To get over the line is a big relief, it's excellent.

"The boys have got a bit of confidence now that we've got across North Coffs."

North Coffs tried to take advantage of being allowed to stay in the match and came out a different team in the third quarter.

With more run, the Kangaroos managed to kick six goals for the quarter to drag the margin back to a goal at the final break.

Try as they might, North Coffs couldn't get in front on the board as the desperation shown by the Saints defence proved a constant stumbling block.

Roos playing coach Darren Funston was a disappointed man afterwards but he admitted that he was beaten by a better team.

"You've got to tip your hat to Sawtell because they were too good for us again," he said.

'They controlled the footy better and on top of that they had more run than us and had more numbers around the footy.

If you're going to win a final on a big ground, that's what you need to do.

"To our boys credit we fought it out and had a go after half time but the damage was already done in the first quarter."



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