Panthers are prowling again
ALMOST written off a fortnight ago after losing their opening two matches of the season, Sawtell have their season back on track and there are a handful of new faces in the team who have helped steer the Panthers' ship back towards calmer waters.
Hooker Luke Hemsworth and five-eighth Steven Spencer were leaders in the tackle count, junior forward Jarrod Wallace acquitted himself well while Fijian pair Eroni Dolodai and Josateki Revuedae immediately came to attention in their debuts for the club.
In heavy conditions, the Panthers became involved in a good old-fashioned war of attrition with the Seahorses and despite leading by only four points at the break, looked most likely to get on top as their work around the ruck area was a lot sharper.
On a day when the ground doesn't make for stylish football, often it's one piece of individual brilliance that can turn a match in favour of one side.
While Panther fans were licking their lips in excitement with the flair of the new Fijians on the right side of their attack, it was a Daniel Tempest charge down that led to a Nathan Davies try and set the Panthers on their way to a four tries to one second half.
“We've trained in this for the last two weeks and I think the last two weeks have paid off for us,” a pleased Sawtell captain-coach Craig Wallace said.
“The boys are playing on a bit of a high at the moment as we found out what we needed to do to fix our season.”
While the usual Sawtell grinding effort was evident thanks to an outstanding effort from Dan Waterson and the previously mentioned tackling, there was no hiding the fact that club supporters loved their fist sight of their international recruits.
“We've got strikepower and plenty of zip on both sides now,” Wallace said of their value.
“The boys came in on Wednesday night and they fitted straight in and have added a bit more zip.
“The confidence that the boys have got from last week's win and these blokes coming in has given them a little bit more.”
Woolgoolga coach Darren Leaney is under no illusion that his team is a group of world beaters but he knew his team was in trouble really early in the contest as he sensed the required intensity wasn't there for his group.
“Before the game it didn't seem like we had the right attitude and it showed as we were completely outplayed,” he lamented. “I think both sides have got equal amounts of ability but they just lifted and played much better than us, we didn't handle the conditions.”
Dominance in the ruck was the difference between the combatants and Leaney admitted as much. “We never got on the front foot in the ruck at all,” he said. “We were dominated the whole time, we didn't win the play the ball at all, we couldn't up first and we lost.”