Panthers take giant step ahead as Group 2 semi finals begin
A TRADESMAN-like 42-20 win by Sawtell over Macksville keeps the Panthers alive in the Group 2 premiership race.
Playing on home soil at Rex Hardaker Oval in the elimination semi final, Sawtell had too much class for the injury-ravaged Sea Eagles.
While they tended to ease off in the latter stages, the game was as good as over at half time after Sawtell crossed five times to lead 28-4.
The match became scrappy in the second half when handling fell away but Macksville lost all hope with 12 minutes remaining when a player was sin-binned by referee Garth Burley.
Captain-coach Brandon Costin and star fullback Zac Johnson were in rare touch for the winning team with each scoring two tries.
While the game was torrid with no beg-your-pardons, Macksville supporters later paid tribute to the sportsmanship of the Sawtell rivals for a heartfelt gesture as players left the field.
The Sea Eagles are in mourning for their former great forward Brian Cockbain whose funeral took place a few hours before kick-off.
Players from both teams formed a guard of honour for Brian's widow, Donna, and the family and applauded them from the arena at the completion of the match.
Sawtell travel away next Saturday to the home ground of the loser of Sunday's qualifying match featuring Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga.
Group 2 minor preliminary semi finals
First - Sawtell d Macksville 42-20
Reserve - Macksville d South Grafton 44-34
Under 18s - Woolgoolga d Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo 25-18