A tackle by Sawtell Panthers pair Tyson Wicks and Leigh Jarvis forces the ball loose from the hands of Orara Valley Axemen forward Cain Bunt.
A tackle by Sawtell Panthers pair Tyson Wicks and Leigh Jarvis forces the ball loose from the hands of Orara Valley Axemen forward Cain Bunt. Brad Greenshields

Improved effort by Panthers over brave Axemen

SAWTELL captain-coach Matt Wakefield knows his Panthers outfit has a lot of work to do before the team plays at its best but he's relieved nonetheless that his team is an early season contender with two wins from three starts.

The Panthers were too strong in the second half against Orara Valley, scoring three unanswered tries to turn a two point half time deficit into a 26-14 win.

"We're still not being patient with the ball, errors are still letting us down," Wakefield said.

"We did bomb a lot of opportunities, the scoreline should've been bigger than it was. But in saying that our preparation over the past month hasn't been great with the weather, I guess it's the same for everyone, so I think it was just a bit of execution which will come."

When Hayden Spinks slotted a penalty goal for the Axemen late in the first half, it gave Orara Valley a much deserved 14-12 lead but sadly circumstances were against the home team after the resumption of play.

After Luke Serevi gave the panthers the lead, Orara had the chance to hit back immediately only for centre Ryan Gill to lose possession with try line within reach.

Shortly after, Lachie Miller scored for the Panthers as a chasing Spinks injured his Achilles.

Moments later Sawtell opened up a vital break when Orara Valley played the ball only a couple of metres out from its own tryline and didn't have a dummy half. Five-eighth Tom Sanders was awake to the opportunity and scooped up the loose ball and dived over to turn nothing into something.

Orara Valley coach Col Speed lamented a low completion rate by his team but said his inexperienced line-up, based on a lot of young, local talent will only improve.

"We wanted to base it around Axemen juniors," Speed said.

"Obviously we've brought a couple of quality strike players in as well and they're going to be a huge asset to the club as well."

SAWTELL PANTHERS 26 (Lachie Miller 2, Matt Wakefield, Luke Serevi, Tom Sanders tries; Miller 3 goals) def ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 14 (Ryan Gill, Nathan Schofield tries; Hayden Spinks 3 goals).

Other first grade matches:
Coffs Harbour def Macksville 36-6
Grafton Ghosts def South Grafton 42-6
Woolgoolga def Bellingen 36-24



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