No-nonsense defence gets Sawtell home
By GREG WHITE
JUST when it seemed the Group 2 season might slide into mediocrity along came Sawtell and Nambucca Heads to turn on a thriller at Coronation Park on Saturday. The Panthers won 20-16 after all scoring ended eight minutes into the second half. Faced with wave upon wave of attacking Roosters and every fresh idea Geoff Batten and his men could come up with to cross their line, the visitors tackled themselves into the ground to carry the night. "We can score tries from anywhere on the field which we did in the first half but when the time came to muscle up in defence, we showed our skill at that as well," Sawtell's captain-coach Craig Wallace said with feeling. "Every time it looked bad the boys pulled in tight and we dug our way out." As far as the tryscoring caper goes, the second of the Nathan Davies double was as good as any you'd see. Sparked by Adam Louden on his own side of half way, Davies collected the ball 40 metres from the Nambucca line and faced off four defenders stretched from sideline to goal posts. Almost begging to be grounded as he confronted each in turn, Davies changed direction and pace three times to wrong foot every one and go screaming across under the black dot. For sheer audacity it was breathtaking. Mark Davidson scored off something similar running at a cut out ball from Batten but when they tried a repeat dose following the resumption it all went wrong. With Sawtell scoring from the changeover it proved the last points of the game and the commencement of a cat-and-mouse battle that raged for 32 minutes till the final bell. "We had the feeling out there the game was something special," Nambucca's Geoff Batten said. "But when you confront the sort of defence Sawtell turned on you start making mistakes and taking wrong options. "Maybe we panicked a bit too early." Wallace said he admired the character in his players and their ability not to crack with the pressure. "The pleasing thing for me is the forwards are stepping up to the mark and the blokes coming off the bench are giving everything. "For the last ten minutes we got down to the bare 13 players because everybody was done in. "They'd given their all." A major contributor to the spectacle was referee Nathan Grace who's clear ten metres and refusal to condone interference in the play-the-ball allowed the game to open up. Wallace might not agree after coming into conflict with Grace but it was the referee's tolerance of the big prop that probably ensured the two points headed north. Others might have sin-binned Wallace for yapping but Grace kept him in the game, thus, not giving an edge to Nambucca in the dying stages they wouldn't have deserved. SUPPORTERS SNAPSHOT "We always knew this was a good side. Hope this makes everybody sit up and take notice." ? John Wotherspoon, Sawtell. "Batts has made these blokes into a top class football team. The development in the last month has been exceptional and over the next year or so we'll be up near the top." ? Paul Hamilton, Nambucca Heads. IMPACT POINT When Geoff Batten shot the long ball to Mark Davidson early in the second half and Davo spilled it. The first time they tried it they scored in a period when the Roosters handling was almost perfect. But from here, tiny errors kept creeping in and no matter how hard they tried to break the Sawtell line the Panthers refused to flinch.
Sawtell centre Nathan Davies was at his brilliant best in a dazzling display against Nambucca Heads on Saturday night.