Panthers the team to beat

IN their first outing for the season Sawtell issued a warning to all other VB Gold Group 2 contenders that they are the side to beat for the 2011 premiership crown.

There were slight imperfections in the 42-14 defeat of Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo, but when Sawtell maintained their focus their execution was awesome and the classical forward play was pretty to watch.

Winning co-coach Rohan Loudon made a successful return following a long injury lay-off, and was not surprised the foot came off the accelerator once an early 20-point advantage had been established.

The side built momentum thanks to quick service at dummy half and the ability of the ball players to stand in tackles while offloading to second-phase support men.

“It’s always hard to keep your mind on the game when you get away like that but Bellingen made sure they came back when we dropped in intensity and we’ll have to watch not to get caught out by that,” Loudon said.

“As for the forwards offloading, it’s always good to have two blokes running instead of one, and we put a lot of work into getting that right.”

The Panthers got around the Magpies on the fringes but were forced to back off when fatigue set in and handling suffered.

Bellingen boss Ryan O’Connor said his lads found it hard to handle their opponents running a forward on the fourth or fifth tackle, followed by the deep clearing kick from playmaker Danny Russell on the last.

“Our enthusiasm was better than last week, but we made our first few tackles and then backed off on the last couple,” he said.

“Sawtell were scoring but not through lack of effort on our part, but our technical stuff wasn’t there.”

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