Former captain-coach Aaron Dyett made a comeback and was one of few stars for the Comets in today's loss to Sawtell.
Former captain-coach Aaron Dyett made a comeback and was one of few stars for the Comets in today's loss to Sawtell. Leigh Jensen

Panthers gloss over fumbling Coffs

TO MENTION the catastrophic list of errors made by Coffs Harbour in today's 20-6 loss to arch-rival Sawtell is almost unfair to the Panthers who worked so hard for another fine victory.

Winning co-captain-coach Damian Irvine admitted execution fell away in the second half as the sticky surface broke down but a near flawless opening 40 minutes had the team on the road to supremacy.

"Completions were the secret and I think we ended up with 14 from 18 sets done properly," he said.

"The plan today was to complete, kick long and make Coffs keep coming out of their own half.

"I knew if we could keep turning their big blokes around they'd start to struggle."

Sawtell halves Danny Russell and Troy Robinson took a leaf out of Macksville's book from the glory days and were never afraid to put the ball to the opposite end early in the tackle count.

It not only delivered constant territorial advantage but Coffs aided and abetted their own destruction by making some abominable errors.

"It doesn't hurt to copy Macksville as they hurt us plenty of times over the years with those same tactics and they sure worked on Coffs," Irvine chuckled.

"Our defence is great and I knew if we could hang onto the ball near their line, be patient and wait for them to turn it over, we'd get opportunities coming our way."

Comets coach Steve Gooley was a shattered man long before the final whistle as mistake piled upon mistake upon even more critical mistakes.

At the end of the day he didn't have much to say but during the progress of the match his body language showed the torture he was going through ... and not for the first time this season.

In that first half, Coffs made six turnovers in possession and Sawtell, three.

Sawtell managed to clean up their lapses whereas Coffs often stood there looking at the blunders while their rivals swooped and made them pay dearly.

Not just in this match but all season - the execution in the play-the-ball area has been diabolical and it was the contributing factor to the second try scored by the visitors.

Madison Williams and Irvine were involved in a tangle in front of the posts which saw Coffs penalised by referee Jason Townley.

Most players in red and gold were still arguing the toss while Nick English was cruising under the posts.

And that was just one small sample of their calamitous afternoon.

"All the other teams make mistakes but ours have a habit of turning into catastrophes," Gooley groaned.

To be fair, not every Comet had an off-day.

Williams tried hard, Ty Blanchette found himself in trouble at times with the match officials but showed some nice touches.

Former captain-coach Aaron Dyett in his first match for two years looked like he'd never been away from the game.

Fresh from the break, Sawtell were twice unlucky not to score but got things right the third time when a Coffs error close to the line gave hard-working prop Blake Keeping possibly the easiest try of 2012.

While Sawtell's handling dropped off late in the day, Irvine mentioned an improvement is coming.

"Even though we were in the lead we shouldn't have dropped away like that," he said.

"If we do that against Nambucca next week we'll get rolled.

"Obviously we were better than the score-line and can take a lot out of that for the next start."

SAWTELL PANTHERS 20 (D Russell N English B Keeping tries D Russell 4 goals) bt COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 6 (J Sanders try S Street goal)

  • Scrums: Sawtell 11-10
  • Penalties: Sawtell 12-8
  • Errors: Coffs Harbour 14, Sawtell 10
  • At Advocate Park, Coffs Harbour
  • Referee: Jason Townley
  • Reserve grade: Sawtell bt Coffs Harbour 40-10
  • Under 18s: Sawtell bt Coffs Harbour 16-12

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