ANOTHER LOSS: Axemen prop Ryan Jones passes before the line against at the South Grafton Rebels on Sunday afternoon at the Coramba Sports Ground.
ANOTHER LOSS: Axemen prop Ryan Jones passes before the line against at the South Grafton Rebels on Sunday afternoon at the Coramba Sports Ground. Sam Flanagan

Orara's early season form slump continues

RUGBY LEAGUE: The Orara Valley Axemen's early season form slump has continued after the side slipped to their third loss in their opening four games on the weekend.

Hosting fellow slow starters the South Grafton Rebels, the Axemen began well when second-rower Alex Bunt and winger Steven Cetinich both crossed early in the match to give the side an 8-0 lead.

The game then fell into an arm-wrestle, with strong defence from both teams strangling their opponents attack.

It was South Grafton who were able to break the stalemate when five-eighth Allan McKenzie threw a pinpoint cut-out pass to winger Tim Rigg to score.

With the Axemen up 8-6 at halftime, things went downhill in the second stanza as the Rebels ran in three tries to claim a 22-8 victory.

Orara coach Col Speed said the effort from his chargers was there, but it was the execution and decision-making which was lacking.

"In the first 20 minutes of the game we improved in the areas we had talked about which was pleasing to see,” Speed said.

"Everyone's busting their backsides but the game management and discipline hasn't been great. Completing none from four sets in attacking field position isn't good enough. We're shooting ourselves in the foot.

"But credit to the Rebels, they had good shape and structure and they managed to play the game at their pace.”

Speed ruled out changes to his 17 to mix things up and has backed his players to get their season back on track.

"The players are frustrated, it is disappointing being one from four but we can turn that around.

"There's been things we planned for and other factors we didn't take into account this season. We've got injuries in key areas which has hampered us. Our halfback got injured in the warm-up on Sunday.”

In a stroke of fortune for the Axemen, they have been awarded the two competition points from their round one loss to the Grafton Ghosts after Grafton allegedly fielded an unregistered player.

The Bellingen Valley Dorrigo Magpies have also been handed two points after the same player was on the field in their round two loss.

The Ghosts are appealing the decision.

In other games on the weekend the Coffs Harbour Comets went down to the Ghosts 38-12.

The score was 12-12 at halftime but the Ghosts were able to run away with the match in the final 10 minutes.

Meanwhile the Magpies were denied their first win of the year on Sunday as the Macksville Sea Eagles beat them in a thriller 20-18.

The Sea Eagles' win means they join the Comets and Panthers on six competition points while the Magpies remain at the bottom of the ladder.