GROUP 2: Sawtell Panthers earn shock win over Grafton Ghosts
RUGBY LEAGUE: In a major boilover in the Group 2 competition the Sawtell Panthers scored an upset 20-16 win over the Grafton Ghosts yesterday afternoon.
Much to the delight of the travelling supporters, who packed the grandstands at Frank McGuren Field, the Panthers weathered an early onslaught from the Ghosts big men, and overcame a 12-0 deficit late in the second half to hold out against the Group 2 competition leaders.
In a hot afternoon it was the Grafton Ghosts that hit an early lead when centre Blake Winmill crashed over out wide to open the scoring. Hooker Todd Cameron pushed the conversion attempt wide to leave the score at 4-0.
The Ghosts were in for their second try of the afternoon minutes later when winger Mitchell Gorman toed through a loose ball along the ground and regathered to score. Cameron's conversion attempt was again unsuccessful to leave the score at 8-0.
Both teams struggled to gain momentum through the rest of the first half, with a number of opportunities missed to score points as the score remained at 8-0 at half time.
To open the second half the Ghosts had early ball, and five-eighth Clint Greenshields almost burst through a gap out wide to score, but was dragged down by desperate Sawtell defence. A kick into the in-goal saw the Ghosts receive a repeat set, and the Panthers couldn't hold out as Jay Olsen finally found the first points of the second half for Grafton. Cameron's kick was again waved away to leave the score at 12-0.
The Panthers needed to be the next to score to stay in touch with the game, and their halfback Chad Taylor delivered, with a stepping run that left Ghosts defenders in his wake before he found his centre Chris Watkins who scored under the posts. Watkins converted his own to try to take the Panthers within six points of the lead.
A penalty to the Panthers put them back on the attack from the restart, and in a well-composed set, Panthers interchange Billy Dolar strolled through a large hole to score their second try. Watkins locked the scores up with his kick at goal successful to take the score to 12-12.
All the momentum was with the Panthers who put on another try and hooker Tyke Kemp made a incisive run through the middle of the field before he found their fullback Daniel Donovan to score and give his side the lead. Watkins again added the extra two points.
In a perfect set after points the Panthers found a 40-20 to put themselves in a chance to add to their lead, and to make matters worse for the Ghosts Gorman was sin-binned by the referee for dissent.
Another penalty for a lifting tackle gave Sawtell a gift two points, which Watkins took to take their lead out beyond a converted try with less than 15 minutes left of play.
Tempers threatened to boil over as the match wore on, and after an incident where a Sawtell player was hit without the ball and a Panthers player came out of the line to get into a shoving match both Panthers winger Brenden Downton and Ghosts prop Adam Slater were sent off.
A frantic set of six followed where desperate Ghosts defence kept the Panthers at bay and turned defence into attack when captain-coach Danny Wicks almost found a way through the Sawtell line but an offload to Cooper Woods saw the fullback brought down short.
Gorman's return to the field saw him latch onto a Greenshields cut-out ball to cross in the corner for a much-needed try. Cameron's conversion was again waved away leaving the score at 16-20 in Sawtell's favour, and as the clock ticked away the Panthers were able to hold firm for their second win of the 2019 season.
SAWTELL PANTHERS 20 (Donovan, Watkins, Dolar tries, Watking 4 goals) def GRAFTON GHOSTS 16 (Gorman 2, Winmill, Olsen tries).