Referee blows whistle on Sawtell
By PAUL CHAMBERS
THE best officials are the ones you don't notice, the ones that are professional, proficient and efficient.
When officials dominate a game you have problems, especially when the players and spectators have no idea what the decisions are for and therefore become frustrated.
This was a fast, free flowing game of hard attacking football, both teams drew a line in the sand in defence and refused to give an inch.
There were some big hits and huge collisions as both teams pushed each other to the limit and also pushed the boundaries close to the mark in holding down at the play-the-ball and getting back the full 10 metres.
So it was a mystery to all concerned that the officials between them managed to award a massive 26 penalties, eight to Sawtell and 18 to Woolgoolga.
The game had no malice in it, a lot of feeling and passion, but no malice, so where did the penalties come from?
The most confusing penalties were those given after a touch judge's report from Lavery, who constantly ran onto the field seeking meetings with referee Rick Purton for infringements which at worst seemed minor.
The players were left bewildered and frustrated by these decisions and it did have an effect on the game.
Not the result though as Woolgoolga deserved their hard fought win today, it really affected the flow of the game and the self discipline of the players.
As the majority of the penalties were awarded to Woolgoolga, it was Sawtell who became frustrated and as a result lost their focus, direction and impetus for a crucial 20-minute period in the middle of the second half.
Having said that you cannot take anything away from the Seahorses who were magnificent in both attack and defence.
They tried to move the ball around early on and catch the Panthers napping out wide and then resorted to bashing the ball hard up the middle when things got a lot tighter.
The plan worked perfectly for them as they raced into a great 18 point lead on the back of some devastating running by Lee Harvey and Dallas Turner, in particular, which allowed mercurial half back, Arthur Murray, to once again weave his magic prodding and probing at and through the defensive line at every opportunity.
Sawtell were not to be outdone, however, and bounced back with some great football of their own scoring the next two tries to make the score 20-12 ten minutes into the second half.
Matt Plater, Mick Battye and Adam Watson were the instigators of the revival as the home side tried to dominate proceedings around the play the ball to get some go forward, before creating scoring opportunities of their own.
With the game in the balance the next score would be crucial and Sawtell crossed for what looked to be a perfectly good try only for flag wielding menace, Lavery, to enter the fray from 50 metres away to disallow the try.
Woolgoolga were awarded the penalty and that started the penalty fest.
The free piggyback was followed by four consecutive penalties and ended with two more tries in the next five minutes, effectively killing off the game.
Sawtell captain-coach, Craig Wallace, was happy with his team's performance but very disappointed with the officials.
"Our boys played very well today, but yet again we were not allowed to win a game we could have won," Wallace said.
"Some of the decisions today were just not good enough, there is no consistency at all and what is good enough for one team should be good enough for another team."
John Cross, his counterpart at Woolgoolga, was ecstatic with his sides win.
"If I am totally honest I had some doubts myself whether or not we would fall at the last hurdle and not make make the finals, but the boys really lifted themselves today and carried me along with them,"
"It was a good team effort all round and we showed great discipline when there were a few dodgy decisions floating around out there, and I think the fact that we held our discipline better than them is what got us the points today." a very happy Cross said.
There were a lot of big performers for Woolgoolga, none more so than unsung front rower Dallas Turner who came off the bench to put in an inspired display taking hit up after hit up and dominating in defence.
"That was a good hard game in the forwards and we really muscled up in our go forward so that the backs had a better platform to do their job," Turner said.
"I really enjoyed it out there today, and it was a big win for us which will hopefully secure us a spot in the finals."
WOOLGOOLGA 31 (Drew Vines 2, Arthur Murray 2, Dave Toomey tries; Murray 5 goals, fg) d SAWTELL 18 (Adam Watson 2, Nathan Townsend tries; Brendan Myers 2, Nathan Davies goals).
Scrums: Sawtell 9-7. Penalties: Woolgoolga 18-8. Errors: Sawtell 15-14.
Best players: Dallas Turner, Lee Harvey, Arthur Murray (Woolgoolga) Mat Plater, Adam Watson, Mick Battye (Sawtell): Reserves: Sawtell d Woolgoolga 16-4.
Under 18's: Sawtell def Woolgoolga 36-18.