THE Panthers were a bit shaky for a while but a strong second half saw Sawtell earn home ground advantage in next week's knockout semi final.

Next weekend Sawtell will play host to Woolgoolga after the Panthers scored three unanswered tries in the second half to win 40-26 against a plucky Macksville.

That result combined with the losses from Woolgoolga and Nambucca Heads means Rex Hardaker Oval will be the place to be on Saturday afternoon as the Group 2 finals series kicks off.

For a 15 minute period in the first half  the Panthers went to sleep and it looked like it could prove costly.

Having raced out to an 18-4 lead through tries to Zade Goodenough, Warren Jarrett and five-eighth Chris Watkins, Macksville took full advantage of Sawtell taking their foot off the pedal scoring four tries of their own to open up an eight point lead.

The margin was reduced to two points just before the interval and that's when some harsh words were spoken inside the sheds by the Sawtell coaching staff.

Captain Peter Irwin said news of Grafton leading Woolgoolga had got through and the Panthers were reminded of the opportunity in front of them.

"The coach really got up us and said we've got a lot to play for," Irwin said.

"We were playing for our home ground advantage and these boys (Macksville) are sitting second last and didn't have much to play for pretty much just pride and he give us a bit of a serve and the boys pulled their fingers out and dug in."

While the Sawtell try line was an open invitation in the first half, after the break the Panthers didn't concede a single point while scoring three tries of their own including a double to centre Nathan Davies.

One could argue that the best Sawtell played was when they were a man down for 10 minutes courtesy of Lachie Miller being sin-binned. During this period the Sea Eagles attacked the try line but Sawtell never relented and now have the home ground advantage on Saturday as their reward.

SAWTELL PANTHERS 40 (Nathan Davies 2, Chris watkins 2, Zade Goodenough, Warren Jarrett, Lachie Miller tries; Jack Conlon 6 goals) def MACKSVILLE SEA EAGLES 26 (Keith Donovan, Damien Carriage, Dareese Johnson, Robbie Smith, Andrew Welsh tries; Steven lewis, Owen Blair, Rick Morris goals).

Coffs Harbour def Nambucca Heads 64-28
Grafton def Woolgoolga 46-12
South Grafton def Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo 28-18


  Pts P/Diff
South Grafton 34 247
Grafton Ghosts 30 242
Coffs Harbour 23 125
Sawtell 20 -32
Woolgoolga 18 -48
Orara Valley 18 -118
Nambucca Heads 18 -118
Macksville 14 -26
Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo 5 -272

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