Port Macquarie centre Kieran Vale shone yesterday with a hat-trick.
Port Macquarie centre Kieran Vale shone yesterday with a hat-trick. Leigh Jensen

Sharks too classy for Seahorses

TEN minutes of backs-to-the-wall resistance while two players were in the sin bin was the reason Port Macquarie edged out Woolgoolga 46-34 in an absolute thriller at the Sports Reserve yesterday.

While Nac Kini Kini and Sharks skipper Michael Bright were in the cooler, the home side did manage to cross once but the failure to do it more times with their numerical superiority left Seahorses coach Steve Gooley wondering what might have been.

“We needed to take advantage of the sin bin and get across the line more often and the game slipped away there,” he said. “Overall, we needed to finish off better but I was really proud of the boys for digging in.

“The forwards don’t get enough credit and they were great again today but Port is a hard side ... very difficult to beat.”

Port trailed 16-0 after 10 minutes when the home side used a mountain of possession to turn on some razzle dazzle.

But coach Tony Pascoe kept faith and claimed later he never doubted for a second his side would eventually win.

“Woopi started well ... we didn’t ... simple as that,” he said.

“We just had to finish a few sets in a row and while I knew we’d score points, we just had to hang on to that ball.”

Midway through the opening stanza the home side surged ahead by 18 points but the fightback began when Joel Asher crossed for the first try of his eventual hat-trick.

Despite being on the wrong side of the penalty count, the visitors trailed by only four at the break and with their super-swift backline close to getting their running lines correct, the signs were looking ominous.

Asher was across again two minutes after the resumption to give the Sharks the lead for the first time in the game and the pressure continued to build.

Scott Street charged over to put the lead back with Woolgoolga as first Kini Kini was sent to the bin by referee Vasco Baston, followed soon after by captain Bright.

Still, the Sharks kept resisting manfully and with their attack reaching peak performance as Kieran Vale began finding holes everywhere, they’d pulled off a remarkable escape from an away defeat to keep their unbeaten record intact.

“Their very classy backline is hard to stop,” Gooley added.

“By that stage our bench was feeling the strain but I still think it was one of our best efforts this season.

“In a game like today’s, to get ahead of them we needed four substitutes available for the full 80 minutes and that wasn’t to be.”

Gooley is thankful next week’s break will allow some recuperation but he still has several worries on his plate.

Backline workhorse Sam Sinclair played his last match yesterday before taking up a job offer in the snowfields and Rob Toshack may have caused further damage to his problematic hand.

“The weather kept us from training on Thursday and a couple of things didn’t work out but I’m happy about the direction we’re heading,” Gooley said.

“Second round now shows promise providing we can put some wins together.”

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