Neal McCarthy has his progress halted as three Port Macquarie players combine to wrestle him down.
Neal McCarthy has his progress halted as three Port Macquarie players combine to wrestle him down.

Sharks bite Panthers

By BRAD GREENSHIELDS

LIKE the great Kevin Costner epics Waterworld and The Postman, yesterday's top-of-the-table clash failed to live up to expectations.

Never before has a crowd at Rex Hardaker Oval been so quiet as Port Macquarie plodded their way to a 24-12 victory.

Stop-start football due to a building error count never allowed the match to get out of first gear.

Sure the playing conditions weren't spectacular and it meant that free flowing football that allowed the football to fly around was a rarity.

Fact was though, the only thing that you could really hang your hat on from this encounter is that both Sawtell and Port Macquarie showed tremendous defence when their backs were against the wall.

At least referee Kirk Taylor again created some conversation among the spectators with some decisions that raised more than a few eyebrows.

Five minutes before half time, Sharks winger Luke Sprague ran the length of the field to score a try after picking up a loose ball.

Trouble was Adam Loudon wanted to scramble for the ball but wasn't allowed to when dragged back by a Port forward.

Had some luck gone the Panthers way the result could've been different but fact is the Sharks have now wrapped up the minor premiership as the two points they receive courtesy of next week's bye puts them beyond anyone's reach.

Obviously disappointed at the loss, Panthers captain-coach Craig Wallace isn't too concerned at this stage that the their fight for the minor premiership ended yesterday.

"We'll take a bit out of that game and we had a couple of blokes out with another couple of injuries the game today," he said.

"There's a long way to go and you don't win grand finals in July. To finish second, I think it's a good thing to play a couple of semi's.

"We'll be right, we've got a month of tough footy ahead of us and the boys are really looking forward to it."

For a solid 20 minute period after half time, Sawtell dominated possession and a converted Adam Loudon try brought the home side back to within six points of their opponents.

That was as far as converting possession into points went due to a combination of stubborn Port defence and handing the ball over with handling errors.

"It's not so much the loss, I think it's more how we lost," Wallace lamented.

"Our completion wasn't bad but we turned the ball over a couple of times and they capitalised on it.

"They scored two tries that they shouldn't have, two freaky tries and without them it brings it back to 12-all. The score doesn't really indicate the game."

Hopefully the next big game either of these two teams play turns out to be more of a crowd entertainer like Dances With Wolves or The Bodyguard.



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