Panthers hold off Rebels in catch up game

Sawtell Panthers reserve grade players and supporters cheer the first-grade side onto the field.

SAWTELL Panthers have held off a fast-finishing South Grafton Rebels for a 30-26 win in their long weekend catch up game at Rex Hardaker Oval.

The Panthers made a great start with Jayden O’Shannessy crossing over in the 5th minute.

The Rebels hit straight back a few minutes later to take the score to 6-4.

South Grafton had the better early running with the game mostly played in their attacking half, with the Panthers goal line defence keeping them in the game.

A 40/20 kick relieved the pressure for the Panthers, and was a turning point as the Panthers started to gain the ascendancy,

A Rebels try against the run of play in the 35th minute saw the visitors take an 8-6 lead.

But the Panthers hit straight back on the stroke of halftime courtesy of Thomas Sanders, to take a 12-8 lead into the break.

A great long range run and second try to Jayden O’Shannessy in the opening minutes of the second half saw the home side extend their lead to 18-8.

Darcy Collins scored out wide to extend the lead to 24-8 with 25 minutes to go.

The Panthers threatened to run away with the contest, with their defence and strong running muscling up and wearing the Rebels down.

The Panthers backs were also carving up the Rebels defence through the middle, as they threatened to pile on more points.

But the Rebels showed they still had some fight left in them, scoring a much needed try with 20 minutes to go.

Their fight back continued when they crossed just minutes later, cutting the lead to 24-20 with 15 minutes to go.

Sawtell responded in kind with a key try of their own, with Morgan Andral barging over the line to take the lead to 30-20 with just 10 minutes to go.

The Rebels scored just before full time, with the Panthers holding off any last-minute comeback.

Sawtell Panthers captain/coach Sam Johnstone shared his thoughts on the hard-fought win.

“We definitely made it hard for ourselves, it was a tough win, but at the end of the day we got the two points and that’s all that matters,” he said.

“South Grafton may not have got the results this year, but every game they have been like that, they have been close. They play tough and they play hard, they are not an easy beat so we had to show up.

“Sometimes the wins are ugly, but to get the two points that’s all that matters.”

Johnstone is looking forward to taking on his side’s arch rivals this weekend.

“We got the two points, now we are on to play Coffs Harbour next week and it’s going to be a big game Saturday down there.

“We knew this South Grafton team was desperate and Coffs are going to be just as desperate.”


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