Panthers get fitting finale
IT WAS only fitting that Sawtell produced a dominant display in yesterday's under-18 grand final as it was the Panthers that had dominated the season from the first whistle to the last.
After a slow start against Macleay Valley that saw the Mustangs race out to a 10-nil lead, Sawtell ran in seven unanswered tries in the space of 40 minutes to run away with a convincing 36-16 victory.
The Mustangs were cursing their luck after the match about some injuries early in the match but truth be told, a fully fit team wouldn't have challenged Sawtell.
There were many memorable individual performances that set the Panthers alight.
Fullback Dale Middleton was outstanding with his dashing kick returns and the calm manner in which he constantly diffused a challenging Macleay Valley bomb.
Halfback Andrew Beaumont scored a hat-trick, hooker Corey Wickins continually snuck his nose through the Mustangs' defensive line while props Nathan Abel and Jarrod Wallace provided plenty of drive.
Towards the end of the match Macleay Valley simply looked like they were marching down the Green Mile as they were literally dead men walking, such was the lack of energy they had remaining after being forced to defend for extended periods throughout.
“Our fitness was great and my coaching philosophy is basically based on that because if you get that in place as a platform you're headed in the right direction,” victorious coach Greg Shuttleworth said after the match.
“We made a few errors early on and they had a bit of ball and a few bounces went their way.
“But as soon as we got back to the arm wrestle and being patient I thought we'd get the result and as it happened it panned out that way.”