By GREG WHITE
"It was only a trial," everyone was at pains to point out, but nobody missed the ease of the Sawtell youngster's 26-12 win over highly fancied Orara Valley at the International Stadium on Saturday.
"The kids worked hard in the off season and deserved their chance," Panthers' coaching assistant Greg Shuttleworth remarked.
"At least six will become regular first graders this year."
Coach Craig Wallace rarely gives much away, but this time allowed himself a wry smile.
"Very satisfying," he said.
"They had to go well because they're all we've got."
The young Panthers had too much enthusiasm for a cumbersome Axemen line-up, many of whom still have to go through the formality of introductions and handshaking.
"Everybody still has to get used to each other's game," disappointed captain coach Matt Donovan groaned, "but that's no excuse for the amount of ball we coughed up."
"Frankly, we got lost and I thought we were bloody awful."
A notoriously hard taskmaster, Donovan included himself in the 'awful' basket despite running himself ragged trying to spark some action.
But it was the Panthers who looked sharpest, particularly Adam Loudon, tried in various positions in the backline, and promising prop forward Brad Wykes.
Orara's best were halfback Shaun Hart who looks set for an enormous year and talented backrower Tristan Hamilton-Giggins.
SAWTELL PANTHERS 26 (Brendan Myers 2, Adam Loudon, Nathan Davies, Mitch Thomson, Kevin Gordon tries; Davies goal) def ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 12 (Aaron Taylor, Bert Gray tries; Taylor 2 goals).
Scrums: Orara Valley 15-8
Penalties: Sawtell 9-3
Errors: Orara Valley 14, Sawtell 9