Race for the top tightens in North Coast AFL
NEW life has been breathed into the premiership race with Coffs Harbour Breakers win over title favourites Sawtell Toormina Saints.
This was the Breakers first win over their local rival in 2018 at the fourth attempt and cuts the Saints lead at the top of the ladder to 12 points.
In a season where the Breakers have struggled for consistency it keeps the Breakers win/loss ratio in the positive, with six wins against four losses.
Most importantly it ensures they stay a match clear of Port Macquarie in second place and in line to have a double chance come finals time.
The Saints held a slender three point lead at the first break before the Breakers put together their best quarter of footy for the season in the second, piling on four goals against just two points for Sawtell.
This saw the Breakers head to half time with a 26 point lead and the fate of the match firmly within their grasp.
Sawtell mounted a spirited fight in the third to reduce the deficit to just ten points at the last break but this was the closest they were to get as they were unable to make any further headway in the last term as Breakers held on to win by 11 points.
The winning margin should have been greater but Breakers one disappointment on the dsay would have been with their finishing where 30 scoring shots returned 16 behinds.
Shaydan Close and Nick Stanlan-Velt each kicked three goals for the Breakers.
Brett Vella marked his return from a long injury lay-off with two goals, and was joined on this mark by both Royce Close and Josh Lansdowne.
Sawtell's main avenue to goal was through Aaron Boatfield with three. The main support acts came in the form of Malcolm Trotter and Leif Stuart with two goals apiece.
Coffs Harbour Breakers 14.16 (100) defeated Sawtell Toormina Saints 13.11 (89)
Grafton Tigers gave the Port Macquarie Magpies an almighty scare in Port but couldn't quite hold on to pull off the biggest upset of the season.
Scoring was practically even throughout the first half with less than a goal the margin at each of the first two breaks.
The Tigers turned the match on its head in the third where they were able to post five goals against the Magpies' two and went to the last break with a handy 15 point margin.
The match turned decisively in the last quarter when Tigers captain/coach Chris Curthoys succumbed to a recurrence of a knee injury and had to leave the field.
Curthoys had been the dominant player on the field, from this point on the Tigers lost their structure and rhythm and the Magpies swooped.
Scoring from the third quarter was virtually reversed, with Port adding six goals against the Tigers two majors to sneak away with a ten point win that was far too close for comfort.
Jesse Schmidt and young Ed Smith each managed three goals, with Sam Johnson adding two.
On a day when knee injuries were the key focus, the Magpies received a welcome boost as new coach Tom Marmo returned to the field from his own knee injury to kick one goal.
The Tigers will be agonising over the one that got away and will be sweating on the prognosis for Curthoys.
They are still a mathematical chance of playing Finals footy but need to win each of their five remaining matches to do so.
Rhys McDonald led the scoring for Grafton with four goals and got great support from young guns Clancy O'Neill with three and Ronan Leslie with two.
Port Macquarie Magpies 12.9 (81) defeated Grafton Tigers 11.5 (71)
The Women's match of the round saw a patched up Coffs Harbour Breakers team with several Youth Girls players on debut go down to ladder leaders Sawtell Toormina Saints.
The Breakers have been very much a team on the improve over the past month but their current injury crisis robbed them of any chance of taking the match to the Saints.
Despite this, the Breakers did extremely well to be within 13 points of their highly fancied rivals at the main break.
An extended bench meant that the Saints came out for the second half with much more running in their legs and this set the scene for the remainder of the match.
The Saints piled on four unanswered goals in the second half to run away with the result and ensure they sit eight points clear of Port in second on the ladder.
Keira Basset produced another five goal performance to lead the line for the Saints, with Alana Hanson and Tiarne Saunders adding one goal each.
Casey Miosge provided the only goal of the game for the Breakers. In a positive for the team Keely Owen played her first match of the season and will add valuable height to the line-up once she gains match fitness.
Sawtell Toormina Saints 7.8 (50) defeated Coffs Harbour Breakers 1.1 (7)