Ben Groenewegen of the Sawtell Panthers tries to fend off an Orara Valley Axemen tackle. Group 2 rugby league 8 April 2018 Rex Hardaker Oval Photo: Brad Greenshields
Ben Groenewegen of the Sawtell Panthers tries to fend off an Orara Valley Axemen tackle. Group 2 rugby league 8 April 2018 Rex Hardaker Oval Photo: Brad Greenshields Brad Greenshields

Panthers purr in season opener

SAWTELL may have been light on for fanfare over the summer months but the Panthers proved they will be a team to reckon with in 2018.

Playing at home, in the first 20 minutes the Panthers looked they were a unit that had played together for a few years against Orara Valley rather than a few weeks.

A pair of tries to centre Jase Long as well as four pointers to forwards Luke Serevi and Austin Cooper had sawtell leading 20-0 at the interval.

Coach Rod Hardy admitted he was as surprised as anybody with the positive start to the 2018 season.

"From a completely new side I didn't know what was going to happen," Hardy said.

"But as soon as we started punching our lines and doing what we do best at training, that's what happens."

After the break Orara Valley bounced back through tries to Liam Dunn and Cain Bunt to halve the margin but that was as close as the Axemen would get as Sawtell steadied to win 30-16.

Orara coach Col Speed was disappointed with a few aspects of his team's performance but admitted any improvement probably wouldn't have changed the result.

"I think you've got to give credit to the opposition," he said.

"Their energer and their enthusiasm within that first 15 to 20 probably set them up for the win. We were struggling to come out of our quarter and then when we got some ball, we probably didn't help ourselves by giving back-to-back non completions. That doesn't help when you're trying to be on the front foot."

The match at Geoff King Motors Park was a one sided affair with Coffs Harbour scoring a dozen tries on the way to a 68-0 thumping of Nambucca Heads.

Hooker Kerrod Selmes scored a hat-trick for the Comets while fullback Scott Street chimed in with a pair of his own four pointers.

Coffs coach Brandon Costin said there was still value to be found in such a dominant performance.

"You do get value because you've got to get on the field and then you've got to implement things that are going to serve you in bigger and better games. We did that today," Costin said.

"We held them scoreless and our completion rate was over 70 per cent in a stop-start grubby game I think there's a lot of positives."

GROUP 2 RESULTS - ROUND 1

SAWTELL PANTHERS 30 (Jase Long 2, Luke Serevi, Austin Cooper, Damian Dumas, Asalemo Usumanu tries; Zac O'Brien 3 goals) def ORARA VALLEY AXEMEN 16 (Liam Dunn, Cain Bunt, Vincent Williams tries; Dunn 2 goals).

COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 68 (Kerrod Selmes 3, Scott Street 2, Coen van Dugteren, Brad Collinson, Jacob van Hammond, Maurice Stokes, Nathan Portelli, Steven Spencer, Chad Isles tries; Nathan Curry 7, Simon Brittain-Snowdon 3 goals) def NAMBUCCA HEADS ROOSTERS 0.

GRAFTON GHOSTS 58 (Cooper Woods 3, Dylan Collett 2, Joel Moss 2, Daniel Kilroy, Adam Slater, Ben McLennan tries; Todd Cameron 9 goals) def SOUTH GRAFTON REBELS 6 (Dwayne Duke try, Grant Brown goal).



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