Get out of jail free card
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
IF you were to liken rugby league to a game of Monopoly, then Orara Valley used a 'Get out of jail free' card yesterday.
The Axemen headed out to an early 10-0 lead but a spirited Coffs Harbour refused to be overawed by the larger reputations of their opponents.
When Comets' lock forward Alan Jones crossed the tryline virtually unopposed on the half time bell, Coffs had all the momentum and a 22-14 lead.
Some more composure in the second stanza combined with a lot of Comets errors early in the tackle count was enough to get the Axemen home but captain-coach Matt Donovan knows that as much as they got of jail, they didn't deserve to either pass go or collect $200.
"I think Coffs Harbour deserved to win that today and the guys know it, it's like we lost the game in the sheds there," he said.
"I think in patches we did play well but in saying that we let Coffs have too many opportunities and we should've shut them out earlier.
"I said to the guys that we've got to lift our intensity for the next couple of weeks.
"If we're going to be a contender for this comp we've got to start doing things about defence and the enthusiasm in defence."
Donovan's major concern is that performances like yesterday's are becoming all too common.
"We've got a tendency to get complacent and go try for try with teams and we don't try to shut them out when we should," he added.
"The most difficult thing to try and do is try and finish strong, don't just get the lead but finish it, don't let teams back in and that's our problem.
"We'll work on it and hopefully it comes at the right time."
When push came to shove and the game was there to be won by either side, it was Donovan who turned back the clock to the 1997 Axemen v Comets grand final (probably his finest hour) by scoring four tries.
While the crowd at Advocate Park may have been disappointment considering it was a clash of traditional rivals as well as Dion Dawes 300th club game, those Comets fans that did show up were appreciative of the grit that their team showed to almost pull off an upset victory.
Coach Scott Mieni knew that it was a win that got away from his boys but he still couldn't hold back the pride he felt about the way his team went about the job.
"I can't speak highly enough of the effort those blokes put in," he said.
"We only ended up with one on the bench, only had two at half time, these are no excuses but I asked the boys for the effort and they put it in.
"When you've been in coaching for as long as I have and your team's doing that for you, you must be doing something right. I thought it was a magnificent effort."
Mieni now has a lot of confidence about the coming weeks, in particular the clash this Saturday night at Advocate Park against Macksville.
"As much as we got dusted up last week by 50-odd down at Port, the boys brought that never give up spirit from down there to here today," he explained.
"I think if we keep doing that each week, we've got a couple more games to go and everything will be okay."