No frills Panthers outstay Axemen
NO FRILLS football was the magic ingredient used by Sawtell to outstay Orara Valley 42-6 at Rex Hardaker Oval today.
For most of the first session the Panthers insisted on doing little that was flashy.
Instead, they concentrated on getting the basics right and while some errors were made and completions weren't entirely perfect, the effort was good enough to get across the try line on four occasions while keeping the visitors scoreless.
"Even though we went to half time leading I was pretty critical of some of the display," co-captain-coach Eddie Harrison remarked.
"We only completed 11 from 20 sets with four forward passes including one that would have been another try if the ball had been sent straight.
"It's very hard to get up for games like today's when you know Orara are doing it tough but we know what their record is like and taking things carefully was always going to be the best option."
Despite the score, Orara were never far behind their hosts.
The big factors in Sawtell's favour were the skills of veteran centre Nathan 'Shorty' Davies and amiable five-eighth Troy Robinson who combined often, including early in the match to set up a screamer of a try, much to the delight of Harrison.
"The boys showed their class and we've been working on that," he said.
"Shorty has been one of the great strike players in the competition for years and I've been working on getting more of the quality ball in his direction and I give him a 50/50 chance of beating his man one-on-one, every time.
"The more ball he gets the better we go and his combination with Johnny Fogarty gets better and better."
Orara captain-coach Chris Shears was reasonably comfortable with the first half and even more so when Scott Lacey posted first points for his side soon after the resumption.
Unfortunately, the Axemen seemed to plateau from that moment and while they still caused great danger to the Panthers with attacking raids the teams from those glory years would have been proud of, inexperience was the killer when moments of truth arrived.
"The idea was to come out in the second half and put good sets together and that's the way we started," he said.
"We scored on our fourth possession and that was it.
"Things started to slide away from there."
An Adam Loudon try was the game breaker and the Panthers were to make three more crossings prior to stumps.
It wasn't the finest game of the season but was had been a contest played in good spirit was marred when tensions increased midway through the second stanza.
A handful of minor skirmishes developed into a more serious disagreement involving John Fogarty.
It escalated further when opposite number Nathan Hardy ran from a distance to allegedly punch the young Sawtell centre and in the final wash-up, visiting referee Troy Martin ordered Fogarty off for 10 minutes in the sin bin and Hardy off for the duration.
Moments later it was on again.
This time Nathan Davies and Orara hooker Josh Few were given 10 minutes on the sideline to cool their heels.
What was most alarming about the situation was a small handful of spectators hanging over the fence and hurling abuse at the players engaged in the melee.
It was an unsavoury aspect to what had been an honourable contest between the two great clubs.
SAWTELL PANTHERS 42 (N Davies D Quinn N Cryer N English A Loudon E Harrison D Russell B Hart tries D Russell 4 goals T Robinson goal) bt ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 6 (S Lacey try N Lythgo goal)
Scrums: Orara Valley 16-11
Penalties: Sawtell 8-5
Errors: Orara Valley 11, Sawtell 8
At Rex Hardaker Oval, Toormina
Referee: Troy Martin (NRRRL exchange)
Reserve grade: Sawtell and Orara Valley drew 26-all
Under 18s: Sawtell bt Orara Valley 28-18