Axemen forwards win the hard yards
ORARA Valley has drawn first blood over fierce rival Coffs Harbour in the battle for the Ken Orr Memorial Shield.
The Axemen were too strong for Coffs Harbour winning 29-24 built on the back of a strong performance by Orara's young forwards.
Coming up against a big reputation pack, the young Axemen rolled up their sleeves to make good yards and stop the opposition from laying a platform their dangerous backs could play off the back of.
Coffs Harbour coach Brandon Costin said his forward pack has to accept some responsibility for the loss after having their colours lowered by the Axemen.
"And the same thing happened against Sawtell," Costin lamented.
"If you asked me where our strength is I'd say it's in our forwards and maybe I need to re-look at who's in that pack because it's just not happening.
"We didn't lay a platform. We didn't even touch the ball in that first 10 to 15 minutes."
The early stages of the contest saw the Axemen race to an 16-0 lead courtesy of tries to Steven Cetinich, Vincent Williams and Michael Hart.
Once Coffs Harbour regained its composure there was a period where the Comets got on top in the arm wrestle.
Shayde Perham and Miles Fairbanks crossed the line for the Comets to reduce the margin to four points at half time.
After the resumption Perham made a break down the left side then grubbered a kick through for Steven Spencer to dive on to give the Comets the lead.
A turning point came minutes later when Cetinich made a long run down the left wing only for Comets halfback Nathan Curry to run him down just metres short of the try line.
Curry held on in the tackle a little bit longer than usual in a bid to give his teammates some extra time to get back but referee Nathan Grace pinged Curry for a professional foul and gave him a 10 minute spell in the sin bin.
In the first set the Axemen held the one-man advantage Hart grubbered a kick through for Alex Bunt to score and restore Orara Valley's lead.
Liam Dunn then extended the lead out to 10 points when he made a cross field run from the left side only to step off his right foot when he saw a gap under the posts.
With the full time siren imminent Hart took a chance to pop over a field goal.
Coen van Dugteren scored in the right corner for the Comets with only seconds remaining in the contest.
The win gives the Axemen a small but significant five point advantage ahead of the second legin the battle for the Ken Orr Memorial Shield.
Orara Valley coach Col Speed said the club made a concerted effort leading up to the match to ensure the players knew the importance of the match.
"It started on Thursday night, we made sure that we got Ken's widow Pam out there to do a presentation ," Speed said.
"The thing about that is it was our plan to make sure it sunk into the players what it means to the community and what it means to the Orr family and all the players that played with him.
"Warren Roberts got up to make a speech and I don't think there was a dry eye in the dressing rooms and Pam was outstanding.
"We've given credibility and respect to the shield and Pam which is most pleasing."
Meanwhile the North Coast under-23 representative team is through to the semi finals of the Country Championships.
Made up of both Group 2 and Group 3 players, the North Coast team proved far too strong for CRL Newcastle.
While Port City fullback Owen Blair scored a hat trick in the convincing 44-16 win, Group 2 players Zac Johnson (Nambucca Heads), Joe McKay (Macksville) and Orara Valley pair Luke Beaumont and Michael Hart also scored.
The semi final is being played on Saturday at Sawtell against Northern Rivers.
ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 29 (Steven Cetinich, Vincent Williams, Buddy Hart, Alex Bunt, Liam Dunn tries; Dunn 4 goals; Hart field goal) def COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 24 (Coen van Dugteren, Steven Spencer, Shayde Perham, Miles Fairbanks tries; Nathan Curry 4 goals).
MACKSVILLE SEA EAGLES 34 (J Simpson 2, T Blair 2, D Carriage, K Donovan; A Blair 5 goals) def SOUTH GRAFTON REBELS 18 (J Green, D Briggs, X Sullivan; N McGrady 3 goals).
GRAFTON GHOSTS 98 (Adam Slater 3, Rhys Hambly 3, Cameron Winters 2, Jay Olsen 2, Cooper Woods, Carson Galloway, Micahel Cardow, Ben McLennan, Jake Frame, Danny Wicks, Luke Collinson, Tim Tilse tries; Todd Cameron 13 goals) def NAMBUCCA HEADS ROOSTERS 6 (Nolan Witte try; Joseph Blair goal).
Ladies League Tag
Coffs Harbour def Orara Valley 28-8, South Grafton def Macksville 18-0, Sawtell drew with Bellingen 16-all, Grafton Ghosts def Nambucca Heads 38-4.