Action between the Sawtell Toormina Saints and Grafton Tigers which ended in a draw between the two top teams.
Action between the Sawtell Toormina Saints and Grafton Tigers which ended in a draw between the two top teams.

Top teams can’t be separated during rare draw

AUSSIE RULES: If any proof was needed of the evenness of the Senior Grade in 2020, then a draw between the top two teams would be it. And that’s exactly what we got on Saturday in the match between Sawtell Toormina Saints and Grafton Tigers.

Adding to the overall proof of the competitive balance is that neither of these teams played in last year’s Grand Final, showing that they have at least closed the gap on last season’s top two teams, and possibly have their noses a fraction in front.

Saturday’s match was an absolute cliff hanger, with both teams having periods where they dominated play, but with neither team able to establish a decisive break. Ultimately, both clubs will be ruing missed opportunities – Grafton having kicked more minor scores, Sawtell for two glorious opportunities late that were both missed.

Draws in the Senior grade have been extremely rare in the history of AFL North Coast and wise heads are questioning if there has been a previous occurrence in the past 20 years. On this occasion, a draw was an entirely fair result for both teams and retains their places at first and second on the ladder.

The result of this match also represented a chance for Port Macquarie Magpies and Coffs Harbour Breakers to close the gap on the top two, and it was Breakers that grasped that opportunity.

For the second week in a row, Breakers proved too strong for Port and are starting to find their stride. After a very even first half that saw Breakers lead by just two points, it was the third quarter effort that set up the win.

While the Breakers forwards added three goals for the term, their defence excelled, keeping the Magpies to just two behinds. This saw Breakers hold a five-goal lead going into the last stanza, and although Port lifted both their intensity and scoring output in this term, they couldn’t make a dent on the lead.

Port have the ability to match any other team in the competition, but are just struggling to put it all together at this stage. They need to find their rhythm quickly otherwise the season will slip through their grasp before they’re able to make an impression upon it.

Royce Close, Michael McMahon, and Jake Hayes were the standout performers for Breakers. McMahon kicked three goals and Justin Millet two, while six other players added solo goals for the victors.

Nathan Cameron-Hancock was the leading light for the home side, with great support from coach Blake Nelson, Braden Saggers, and Matt Clarke. Saggers led the goal kicking with three, with four other players kicking one goal each. Ultimately, the lack of another multiple goal kicker and fewer players sharing the scoring the load cost the Magpies dearly.

Coffs Harbour Breakers 11.14 (80) defeated Port Macquarie Magpies 7.5 (47)

In the Women’s game, the Northern Beaches Blues fresher legs saw them run out on top of the Sawtell Toormina Saints.

The Saints started brightly and held their own in the first quarter to trail by just three points at the first break. However their exertions over the past week and a half took their toll and in the second quarter the Blues got a run on to boot four unanswered goals and take control of the match.

The Saints battled on but weren’t able to register a major score until the last quarter when they kicked two goals, but in the same period the Blues had booted nine to seal a strong victory.

Jazlen Hooke led the scoring for the Blues with three goals, with both Britt Hargreaves and Ashlee Farrell kicking two.

For the Saints, goals were kicked by Claire Steindl, Wenona Weldon, and Lauren Gibbs.

Northern Beaches Blues 10.8 (68) defeated Sawtell Toormina Saints 3.2 (20)

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