By PAUL CHAMBERS
SAWTELL coasted to victory yesterday and in the process grabbed third spot on the Group 2 points table, which gives them two bites at the finals cherry.
The downside of this is that they now have to travel down the Pacific Highway next weekend to take on mighty Macksville at Allen Gillet Oval.
Most teams would be put off by this but not Sawtell, according to captain-coach Craig Wallace.
"We actually hoped we would be playing Macksville so we are really looking forward to next weekend. We owe them a couple so we will go down there full of confidence and smash them," a confident Wallace said.
After yesterday's performance he has every reason to be confident.
Sawtell were far and away the better side.
Okay, Coffs' season was put to bed last week and they had nothing to play for, but to score more than 50 points against them is no mean feat in any game and Sawtell did it comfortably.
But the mark of any good side is their defence and the really pleasing point for the Panthers was the fact that they kept the Comets to only eight points.
This means that Sawtell's defence has only conceded a miserly 323 points all year, second to minor premiers Orara who have conceded only 290.
And when you think this has been achieved with so many key forwards out for long periods of the season everything points to a strong shot at the finals this year.
Wallace was full of praise for his team's defensive performance yesterday.
"It was pretty intense for the first 20 minutes or so because they really muscled up and got stuck into us," he said.
"But it was great that the boys really dug deep and put in a fantastic performance in defence, keeping them scoreless in the first half and only conceding eight points in the second half will give us a lot of confidence."
The defence was strong, but in scoring 56 points so was their attack.
The devastating combination was on their right flank between centre Adam Louden and wing Brendan Myers, who worked in perfect harmony for Myers to grab a hat trick of tries as a result of some Matthew Gidley class passes from Louden.
In the forwards the hard yards were shared around among the usual suspects, with Damian Irvine the stand out this week with some scything angled runs around the ruck and a mountain of work in defence.
So how does this leave Sawtell?
"Today was a good workout for us because when we were under pressure we stuck to our guns, completed our sets and dug deep in defence," Wallace said.
What about injuries, including his own which has now survived two comeback games?
"I pulled up okay, mate, and we are now almost back to full strength with the only injuries minor niggling ones you get at this stage of the season," Wallace added
In what was a great day for the club all three grades got through to the finals, and this was very pleasing to Wallace.
"It has been a huge achievement for everyone connected with the club to see all three grades finish in the top three in their competitions. It has been a great year so far."
Who knows, Sawtell are definitely the dark horses and are worth an outside bet for for this year's Premiership.
SAWTELL PANTHERS 56 (Brendan Myers 3, Dennis Gorden 2, Nathan Davies 2, Dave Wylie, Dale Churchland, Nathan Townsend, Brendan Hope tries; Davies 5, Adam Louden goals) d COFFS COMETS 8 (Shaun Hart, Keeden Williams tries).
Scrums: Sawtell 7-5.
Penalties: Coffs 6-4.
Errors: Coffs 16-12.
Best Players: Damian Irvine, Adam Louden, Brendan Myers (Sawtell) Ashley Trengrove, Bert Gray, Brendan Pellegrino (Coffs).
Reserves: Sawtell d Coffs 42-10.
Under 18s: Coffs d Sawtell 22-4.