Backline hits its straps
FORWARD power has always been Sawtell's forte, but a scorching backline performance delivered a memorable 44-18 win against Port Macquarie at Rex Hardaker Oval yesterday.
Coming off the blocks at a rate of knots, the Panthers took control from the opening whistle and with a near-faultless display in the first 20 minutes they were never headed or threatened.
All the running angles were right, there was plenty of talk and encouragement and spectators could almost taste the confidence oozing from winning captain-coach Rohan Loudon and his men.
“The plan was to go out early and with any type of footy around here, if you can complete and make the opponent do extra sets, you are always going to have control,” Loudon said.
“The game will open up for you and the confidence grows.”
Loudon's personal contribution was enormous, particularly after star playmaker Danny Russell succumbed to a foot injury.
He sparked plenty of the attack, was the ideal midfield link man and was smart enough not to get in the way when teammates were inspired enough to try their hands with something special.
Especially when the backline was in the mood to hurt the opposing side.
“I loved to see those points start to flow but unfortunately, there was a bit of slackening off once or twice in the second half which gave Port a bit of leeway,” Loudon said.
“The second half wasn't as good as the first but we'd done enough early to get away with a couple of lapses.
“The boys spoke about losing last week because we were tentative and there's a need at this time of year to have authority.”
While the eight tries to three margin shows the Sharks were never in the running, they were far from disgraced.
The senior contingent led by captain-coach Michael Bright – who should never have played and spent most of the second half dragging a numb leg around the field – gave it everything they had.
But inexperience among the younger brigade showed up dramatically and they'll be better first graders next season if they learned something from taking on a quality team.
The Sharks have a reputation for being control freaks who always make the running ... but not this season.
“Haven't been in this position for a long time,” Bright agreed.
“We are always trying our best but that doesn't win matches when the other side is hot.”
For the record, both teams were highly disciplined and co-operated fully with referee Jason Townley to make it a decent contest.