Panthers slip under guard
by GREG WHITE
THE final try in yesterdays game at Coramba demonstrated how severely Orara Valley had gone on the slide in their 48-20 smashing by Sawtell.
With the ball punted towards the Axemen's tryline, three chasing Panthers jostled for the honour of touching down to drive an extra nail in Orara's coffin lid.
Fullback Steve Sansom won the race then turned back to look for chasers only to find not a single Orara player within cooee.
In fact, the closest was standing 30 metres in arrears with hands on hips.
"That did not look pretty," Orara captain coach Matt Donovan growled while rolling his eyes. "I knew we didn't have a fullback at home but having nobody going after them was disgraceful."
Once again the underrated Panthers snuck under the guard of a more-favoured rival with the victory likely to consolidate their position in the top three for many weeks to come.
"Something's building with us," assistant coach Greg Shuttleworth said, deputising for a badly concussed Craig Wallace.
"Not everything we do is perfect but at least you can count on us to keep plugging along for the full 80 minutes."
Orara looked sensational ... for the first 15 minutes.
But then they lost Brett Davis and slumbered for the next 13 minutes allowing the Panthers to cross for three converted tries.
"Maybe we should have turned the screws at 18-4 but instead we gave them a sniff," Shuttleworth remarked of his rivals' momentary revival.
"They scored twice yet no one panicked."
Nobody needed to panic.
The Panthers crossed prior to the break ensuring Orara were in catch-up mode for the duration.
Individually, each Axemen player tried hard to create something but collectively shot themselves in the foot with lack of cohesion for sustained periods.
"Twice we dropped the ball second tackle on their line," Donovan admitted.
"Why we did those sort of things, I can't answer.
"We seem to be back in the position of starting from scratch and if it doesn't pick up we could be out the back door."
Shuttleworth wasn't gloating at Donovan's expense.
"Some of Orara's mistakes can happen to us if we're not careful," he agreed.
"We'll identify our errors and work on fixing them.
"Today's game doesn't win the grand final so we'll knuckle down to keep building."
The period from the 15th to the 28th minute when Orara Valley lost Uncle Brett ... and the plot. Sawtell took the initiative and no matter how hard the Axemen tried to get back on their feet, the Panthers kept finding something to keep their rivals at bay.
"We can't blame Sawtell or the referee or anybody but ourselves today. We were the architects of our own destruction." Ted Heffernan, Orara Valley.
"Didn't panic at any stage. People underestimate the Panthers and that's how we like it."
(Just call me) 'Smithy', Sawtell.