Coffs Comets move past Panthers to enter Group 2 grand final
FOR ONCE, the tipsters got it right.
Since before this year's Group 2 Rugby League season got underway, the call has been that Coffs Harbour would meet Grafton in the grand final and after stumbling blocks put in their path at the last minute by Sawtell, the Comets are through to meet the Ghosts at Frank McGuren Field next Sunday.
The winning score was 33-20 but the Panthers put up a terrific performance.
Coffs led 6-4 one minute and 16 seconds from intermission when Michael Meadows changed the complexion of the afternoon, delivering a miracle ball to Abel Lefaoseu who crossed next to the posts.
Instead of restarting the second half two points in arrears, Sawtell captain-coach Brandon Costin now faced an eight point deficit and while the scenario was put to him as a hypothetical, he was certain that last gasp try made a huge difference.
"You saw how our young blokes came out and ran the game all over the field," Costin said.
"They were pumped up and if Coffs hadn't scored first, anything was possible."
Winning coach Colin Speed agreed in part but said less intensity from his men in the first session made a difference and made the game so close.
"We were focussed on staying calm under pressure and basically, may have been a little too calm and patient in what we wanted to achieve," he said.
"They caught us on the hop a bit.
"Still the boys hung in and that try on half time made a difference in the long run."
A period of 20 minutes in the second half when Sawtell went off the boil was crucial.
The Comets scored three times to surge ahead and suddenly, the visitors were playing catch-up footy.
While Sawtell raced in the last three tries, it was noticeable they were battling to stay a force and the clock beat them in the end.
That, and three bombed tries ... and one other factor that Costin didn't miss.
"Our fitness wasn't as good as Coffs and we paid for that at the end," he added.
"It's been a great season and we've won our share.
"If not for Grafton, we would be here with Coffs in a grand final today but the boys have to remember one thing for next year.
"You must get to training if you want to be better than all the rest."
COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 33 (Abel Lefaoseu 3, Kyle Gallen, Michael Meadows, Jacob Van Hamond tries; Nathan Curry 4 goals; Scott Street field goal) def SAWTELL PANTHERS 20 (Daniel Quinn, Liam McGrady, James Sanders, Dion Marr tries; Lachie Miller 2 goals)
Scrums: Coffs Harbour 9-8
Penalties: Sawtell 9-8
Errors: Sawtell 9, Coffs Harbour 7
At Geoff King Motors Oval, Coffs Harbour
Referee: Nathan Grace
Reserve grade: Coffs Harbour d Sawtell 30-28
Under 18s: South Grafton d Macksville 42-32
Grand finals next Sunday
First - Grafton v Coffs Harbour
Reserve - Grafton v Coffs Harbour
Under 18 - Sawtell v South Grafton