Eagles rock Sawtell
ANOTHER instalment was added to the Macksville legend when the Sea Eagles, at one stage reduced to ten men, stormed over Sawtell 50-32 in yesterday's Group 2 major preliminary semi final.
In a carbon copy of the the first round clash between the clubs, referee Rick Purton stunned the partisan home crowd, dismissing prop Grant Schubert in the first minute of play.
The howls of outrage against the referee continued without let up from most of the afternoon, only lifting a notch when Purton sent off substitute Richard Dixon in the 65th minute and almost went through the stratosphere when Jim Tobey was sin-binned 12 minutes from the end.
But by that stage, instead of folding under enormous pressure, the Eagles had struggled back from a severe deficit to be running away with the game while giving their highly-fancied opponents a lesson in pressure cooker football.
"Determination to win," was the ruling from Macksville's king of football, Paul Davis, as he accepted congratulations for one more stunning victory.
"We were just so bloody determined not to go under."
Meanwhile, in the Sawtell dressing room, a stony-faced captain-coach, Craig Wallace fumed in disgust at his own share of misadventure that may have robbed his charges of a winning shot.
"From the moment we were robbed of Kris Watson's ability to organise, we were on the slide," he said bitterly.
Still, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
This most amazing of matches began taking shape in the strangest of fashions.
The Schubert send off stunned the Eagles.
The gears didn't begin grinding until the Panthers had opened an early 16-0 lead, a bittersweet moment that had a tragic twist for the visitors.
As Kris Watson charged towards the line to engineer a try for his brother, Adam, the great strategist was smashed in a late tackle that medical advice said had broken his jaw.
The disastrous implications didn't sink in immediately.
That was to come much later when the Sea Eagles really started digging into their bag of surprises.
Next,some Neville Donovan genius had Macksville on the scoreboard before they once more headed back inside the cave.
Putting the ball into touch from the kickoff, falling off in tackles as the Panther pack roared up the centre, plus an assortment of other tumbles in judgement saw the home side trailing 28-16 at intermission.
"There wasn't much I could say at that stage," Davis said.
"Just to keep hanging in and stay determined."
Pickvance and Gary Jarrett started the fightback early in the second half.
When Neville Donovan made his second crossing in the 52nd minute giving Macksville the lead for the first time some ominous graffiti was appearing on the wall.
Then, Dixon was removed when an attempted shoulder charge on Craig Wallace went astray.
Again, the Eagles lifted and their legend became greater in the ten minutes Jim Tobey spent in the cooler.
Logically, in a perfect world, with 13 on 10, Sawtell should have flexed their muscles before going on to win.
But this was 'mighty' Macksville standing defiantly in their way.
Twice, the Eagles set a three-man front wall of resistance in the scrums and still managed to win the ball.
Over and over, ten brave Eagles found overlaps around a side with three extra defenders, to go hurtling down field.
Astonishingly, when in control of the ball, the Panthers ignored their numerical advantage on the fringe, continuing to pound the centre.
Straight into the open arms of the Macksville welcoming committee.
The closing pair of tries were almost missed in the noise coming from the adoring supporters and the glorious conversion from the sideline to bring up the half century as the hooter sounded, provided one of the finest moments of all.
"Determination, determination," Davis continued to say as he was swamped by fans.
While the ultimate fate of Schubert and Dixon won't be known till they face the judiciary, Davis appears to have no other injury woes prior to next Sunday's crucial contest with the Axemen at Coramba.
But for Craig Wallace, it's a different story, forced to patch up his wounded for the sudden death showdown with Woolgoolga.
"Fair dinkum, what can we do?" he asked anyone who would listen.
"Kris Watson and Adam Loudon both with broken jaws, plus all this other crap."
"Do you know how I feel?"
MACKSVILLE 50 (Neville Donovan 3, Chris Piper, David Pickvance, Gary Jarrett, Owen Blair, Paul Davis, Wes Kelly tries; Cameron Blair 7 goals) d SAWTELL 32 (Dennis Gordon 2, Damian Irvine, Adam Watson, Nathan Davies, Nathan Townsend tries; Davies 4 goals).
Scrums: Macksville 7-3.
Penalties: Sawtell 9-8.
Errors: Sawtell 10, Macksville 8.
Best players: Chris Morecombe, Chris Piper, Neville Donovan (Macksville), Matt Plater, Dale Churchland , Damian Irvine (Sawtell).
n A pair of tries in the latter stages carried Nambucca Heads to an upset 16-10 win over Sawtell in yesterday's Under 18 major preliminary semi final in Macksville.
In a match where emotions ocassionally reached boiling point referee John Cole ordered Rooster centre Tyrone Ussher-Kinnear and Panther prop Andrew Mallam to the sin- bin, before issuing a final dismissal to Mallam, shortly after his return to the arena.
Having players missing in action gave glaring advantages to the non-offending teams.
Sawtell scored with Ussher-Kinnear absent while the Heads levelled during Mallam's first spell on the sideline.
Their winning touchdown arrived when the inevitable overlap presented itself once the big prop had departed the scene.
NAMBUCCA HEADS 16 (Taylor Hamilton-Giggins, Grant Archer, Brent Pigram tries; Nigel Watson 2 goals) d SAWTELL 10 (Justin Davidson, Kurt Matthes tries; Brendan Myers goal)
Penalties: Sawtell 8-4.
Errors: Sawtell 8, Nambucca Heads 7.
Best players: Greg Nichols, Toby March, Grant Archer (Nambucca Heads); Brent Cullen, Brad Wykes, Tyler Shipman (Sawtell).