Victory for a brave Valley
ORARA Valley downed Sawtell at Rex Hardaker Oval yesterday but the 50-20 scoreline doesn't express the passages of bravery and brilliance which turned the meeting into such an enthralling contest.
With an influenza epidemic working its way through the Axemen camp, Brett Davis, Paul Tomlinson, Nic Read and Joel Lacey could have called it quits but played on, with Tomlinson's effort earning rave reviews.
Despite being struck down with a viral complaint, Hans Van Der Donk did want to play before wiser heads talked him into sitting on the sideline as part of the cheer squad.
As for the Panthers, there were many heroic performances from the team that never knows when to quit.
Walking wounded were everywhere and their season of ill fortune continued when more were pole-axed as the match progressed.
"Like when we played them last time, Sawtell are made of tough stuff," Axemen coach Darryl Fisher said.
"We were brave but we should have been more clinical in the first part to put them away.
"Second half we were more patient and when a team doesn't have enough subs on the bench, you go for it."
Sawtell shocked the visitors by taking an early lead before the Axemen struck back.
They kept creeping ahead to lead 18-4 by the break but often the execution was lacking.
"The rain didn't help," Fisher commented, "and in the last three games I don't know why the stoppages in play go against us.
"I want to look at it on the tape because slowing the game down is stopping our momentum."
Sawtell lost Brad Wykes, probably for the season, when he snapped knee ligaments.
Seconds later Nathan Davies suffered a back injury that should have ended his day he stayed on because he had to.
Aaron Considine ignored torn chest ligaments and with Brendan Hope receiving attention, Craig Wallace moved to five-eighth and within seconds was bleeding from a head wound that needed constant attention for the remainder.
So it was surprising the Panthers hit again with so much passion after the break to come within eight points of levelling.
The teams traded tries and Orara were a long way from out of the woods, when Matt Donovan took all doubt out of the equation.
Dale Middleton fumbled a ball, Orara won the scrum 40 metres from the line and Donovan did the rest.
"I gave it to the boys at half time and it took a few minutes to sink in but they put it to them (Sawtell) in the end," Fisher grinned.
Lacey raced across then Donovan again, and the game was over.
A recovered Nathan Davies crossed for a consolation try before the Axemen sealed the afternoons scoring with a brace of touchdowns.
"They're a brave lot but we ran out of troops," Craig Wallace said, pointing to his players.
They can no longer make the playoffs but Wallace maintains the last hasn't been seen of the Panthers in this unfortunate year.
"We're not going to give up and from here we'll be trying to win as many as we can," he promised.