Sawtell?s Luke Matthews, left, tackles Port?s Jon Stephens in Saturday?s AFL North Coast Preliminary Final played at the Coffs
Sawtell?s Luke Matthews, left, tackles Port?s Jon Stephens in Saturday?s AFL North Coast Preliminary Final played at the Coffs

Sawtell on target for title

By CHRIS McKINLEY

SAWTELL have earned the right to defend their 2005 premiership in next week's grand final after defeating Port Macquarie by 15 points on Saturday.

For the second week in a row Port Macquarie found themselves trailing by a sizeable margin at half-time and again the Magpies tried to get back into the contest but their effort was all in vain.

The Saints dominated the second quarter to race out to a 31-point lead at the main break and the margin could've been even greater had Sawtell managed to get a better return for their 12 scoring shots in the term.

Ruck-rover Mark Couzens set up the win for his team with an imperious display through the middle.

He constantly found the ball to drive his team forward and all this despite the attention of the usually close-checking Shannon Skreja.

The fact that Couzens managed to slip a 10 to 15-metre gap on his tagger with hard running and a strong attack on the ball was a credit to him in possibly his finest performance in his familiar number 22 Sawtell guernsey.

Support came from ruckman Courtney Tune who constantly got first hands on the ball at the stoppages while Scott Matthews was his usual rugged self when the going was tough.

Sawtell coach Russ Matthews believes it was his team's ability to be stronger at the football that was the secret to the win.

"I think we just went in harder for the ball," he said.

"We were prepared to get in there and get the ball at the packs while they were happy to stay outside and tackle us on the way out.

"It helped that when we did get it, we hit targets with our handballs.

"Simply put I think we were like the Swans last week by being prepared to have a good go at it."

Next Saturday the Saints now meet the Coffs Swans in an all Coffs Harbour grand final and the club has the chance to win back-to-back titles for the first time in the club's history.

It's an achievement that even a coach as positive as Matthews doubted at times might come. He says it's those doubts that explain why his team was so overjoyed with Saturday's victory.

"We're just excited to get there at this stage actually," he said.



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