End of the road for Panthers and Wallace
FOR the fifth year in a row Craig Wallace had led Sawtell to the finals and for the fifth time the Panthers have fallen short of the premiership that he so desperately wanted.
In the past, defeat in the finals never stopped the Panthers leader standing defiantly and promising to come back again for another assault on the title but after Saturday's 40-22 loss to Port Macquarie, Wallace finally looked a beaten man as he cut a dejected figure in the Sawtell sheds.
The loss meant that Wallace had just played his last game of football and the emotion of the occasion meant that he found it difficult to even address his players at the season's end.
Three simple words uttered by Wallace when asked of his emotions summed up simply how he was feeling: “I'm just shattered”.
Trailing by only two points at half time and having the aid of a reasonable breeze in the second half meant that Sawtell had a golden opportunity to progress through to the minor semi-final.
There was a decent flu bug that went through the Sawtell club during the week that left players feeling flat but not even that could account for Port Macquarie scoring 16 unanswered points in the 16 minutes after the break to effectively sound Sawtell's death knell for 2008.
“We said at half time that we'd have to really stand up and be aggressive and they've put 16 points on us,” Wallace lamented.
“We simply didn't control the football. We ran out on the first tackle, we dropped the ball on the first tackle.
“The first 40 minutes was very good, it was probably our best half all year and then we came out in the second half and just fell away.”
STATS FILE: PORT MACQUARIE SHARKS 40
(Josh Mann 2, Joe Cudmore 2, Addam Greenaway, Matt Blake, Adrian Daley Jr tries; Mann 6 goals) def SAWTELL PANTHERS 22 (Josateki Revueta, Craig O'Loughlin, Dean McLaughlin, Dale Churchland tries; Steven Spencer 2, Nathan Davies goals).
Scrums: Sawtell 14-8. Penalties: Port Macquarie 8-6. Errors: Port Macquarie 13, Sawtell 9.
Best Players: Michael Bright, Walter Hatti, Joe Cudmore (Port Macquarie); Dan Waterson, Josateki Revueta, Steven Spencer (Sawtell).
Reserve Grade: Macleay Valley def Woolgoolga 39-12. Under 18s: Orara Valley def Macksville 22-20.