Mates and misers
By MITCHELL DALE
ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 36 COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 16
FOR a fleeting moment in yesterday's local derby, Coffs Harbour's nostrils were filled with the whiff of victory.
Despite being out-gunned for most of the opening 47 minutes, the Comets only trailled Orara Valley 18-10 after former Axemen half Shaun Hart, now playing for the Comets, grabbed his second try of the afternoon.
Six minutes later, Coffs had held possession for a total of three tackles compared to Orara's six back-to-back sets.
By that stage the Axemen had bolted to a 30-10 lead.
The whiff was gone and so were Coffs.
But in reality, Orara were always comfortable in this one.
Their defence was once again outstanding and for the first 25 minutes, it was hard to fault anything they did.
The Axemen scored three tries in that period to lead 18-0 before Coffs mounted a mini revival.
"It was a good start, we went out there ready to play," Orara captain-coach Brad Hart said.
"They made a few mistakes and we capitalised."
But the thing that really made Hart smile was once again his side's brickwall defence.
"They peppered our line a fair bit today, but we just had so much enthusiasm and hunger," he said.
"We're a team of mates, everyone looks after each other.
"They all want to succeed, they're hungry to be there in the big games."
In their first five matches of the season, Orara have conceded just 68 points.
For those readers who aren't too flash with figures, that's less than 14 points a game.
If anyone wants a reason why Orara are the only undefeated side left in the first grade competition, it is that statistic.
But when they get the ball in their hands, the Axemen are still able to do things that would make Macksville proud.
"Things are going pretty well, when we spread the ball we opened them up," Hart says.
"But there is still a long way to go."
Comets coach Scott Mieni thought his mob were still in with a show at the break, and liked their chances even more after Shaun Hart's second four-pointer.
But that's when things went bad.
"Letting them score straight away (after Hart's try) stung us and we never recovered," Mieni said.
While the Axemen defence deserves praise, Mieni admits his men didn't ask enough questions with the ball.
"We need more organisation in their red zone," he says.
"Bert (Gray) and Shaun (Hart) have been doing a great job, but we are putting a lot of pressure on those two.
"We need to have a few more options.
"But it's not Doom's day yet... it's Mother's day.
"We'll live to fight another day."
Just like it did in last week's loss to Bellingen, poor ball control brought the Comets undone.
"We just didn't complete enough sets," Mieni said.
"It doesn't matter if it's in the Sydney papers or this paper, the main thing everyone talks about is completing sets and we're not doing it."
ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 36 (Dave Smith 2, Scott Lacey, Brad Hart, Ben McCarthy, Brett Davis tries; Davis 5, Paul Tomlinson goals) COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 16 (Shaun Hart 2, Nowan Williams tries; Hart 2 goals).
Scrums: Orara Valley 6-5.
Penalties: Coffs Harbour 15-10.
Best players: Tristan Hamilton-Giggins, Paul Tomlinson, Ben McCarthy, Adam McCarthy (Orara Valley); Will Morgan, Cameron Lewis, Keedan Williams (Coffs Harbour).
Reserves: Orara Valley 32-16.
Under 18s: Coffs Harbour 56-0