Orara Valley tough it out
By MITCHELL DALE
ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 24 SAWTELL PANTHERS 14
ON a day when Matt Donovan celebrated his 100th game for Orara Valley, the Axemen and Panthers produced a throwback to the type of footy that was played well before he first debuted for the club.
It was an old-fashioned battle of attrition, an arm-wrestle dominated by defence.
Both sides tackled their proverbials off, especially when defending their own lines, as the classy play-makers of their opposition circled for the kill.
After the match, a battered Orara Valley captain-coach Brad Hart paid tribute to the 'guts' his side displayed to remain undefeated after four rounds.
"That was bloody tough, mate," Hart said.
"I'm stoked with that, it was a real team effort.
"Things like Tristan Hamilton-Giggins' try when he crashed through the line or Adam McCarthy jumping above everyone to take a pressure kick, that shows how much guts this side has.
"We all look after each other, even the blokes who were out injured ? Ben McCarthy, Tyler Corfe, Brant O'Dea and Ryan Walker ? they were all here in the sheds celebrating the win.
"Sawtell scored a couple of tries from our mistakes, but we kept coming back at them."
When asked when he had seen an Orara Valley side defend so well, Hart went back to the club's glory days.
"2003, when we made the grand final and 1997 when we won it," he said.
Sawtell led 8-6 at the break after an individual try by young Panthers hooker Bobby Kennedy gave his side the edge late in the half.
Orara re-gained the ascendancy when Hamilton-Giggins scored his first of two tries for the afternoon, bursting onto a Brett Davis short ball.
But Sawtell stole back the lead soon after when Kennedy put winger Dennis Gordon away.
Gordon still had plenty of work to do, beating two cover defenders to score under the sticks and give Sawtell a 14-10 buffer.
That was the last joy for the Panthers, as Orara's defence clicked into another gear and their attack, orchestrated by Davis and Hart, followed suit.
"Like I said before the game, it came down to a flip of the coin, the bounce of the ball," Hart said.
Injured Sawtell captain-coach Craig Wallace agreed the bounce of the ball, and the call of the ref, went against his side.
"It was a very tight game, unfortunately three crucial decisions didn't go our way when they should have," Wallace said.
"Things like that hurt you, especially in such a high-intensity game like this.
"They scored three tries (from those decisions)... I really think the number one referee should have been here.
"Rick (Purton) normally does the big games, I don't know why he wasn't here."
Wallace, who will miss the remainder of the season with a snapped anterior cruciate ligament, couldn't fault his troops who battled hard without their two on-field leaders (assistant coach Greg Shuttleworth was also absent).
"The boys really stepped up, the bounce of the ball just didn't go our way," he said.
"I was pretty impressed, we went forward and defensively it was there.
"Our handling was a bit ordinary in the first half, but it improved in the second, although we still need to do a bit of work in that area."
Orara Valley 24 (Tristan Hamilton-Giggins 2, Brad Hart, Adam McCarthy tries; Brett Davis 4 goals) Sawtell Panthers 14 (Dave Whiley, Bobby Kennedy, Dennis Gordon tries; Nathan Davies goal).
Scrums: Sawtell 10-5
Penalties: Sawtell 5-4
Best players: Tristan Hamilton-Giggins, Paul Tomlinson, Adam McCarthy, Brett Davis (Orara Valley); Matt Plater, Scott Moody, Bobby Kennedy, Kris Watson (Sawtell).