AN INJURY ravaged Macksville Sea Eagles just fell short of victory on Saturday at Rex Hardaker Oval, going down 30-22 to the Sawtell Panthers in Group 2 rugby league.
With the Eagles needing a victory in this game to keep their slim semi-final hopes alive, they approached the day with confidence, but their hopes were set back when they found their long injury toll had only increased over the past week.
The Eagles took the field with three starting players having already played a game, but from the start they showed they were keen to get the points from this contest.
An early try to the Panthers saw them take a 6-0 lead before Tyler Blair finished off a great passing movement to score under the posts. Mitch Morrison converted to lock the scores at 6-all.
The Panthers scored again soon after but when Nev Donovan regathered the ball from the kick off he off-loaded to Josh Cockbain who was brought down on the line.
From there Blair was able to cross again and when Morrison converted the scores were locked at 12-all, which was the half time score.
The Eagles struck early in the second half, Cockbain juggling the ball before crashing through the defence to score. Morrison again converted for the Eagles to lead 18-12.
The Panthers struck back with two tries to take a 26-18 lead before the Eagles clicked into gear and Zac Johnson finished off a great backline movement, diving over in the corner to score and reduce Sawtell's lead to 26-22.
The Eagles went close to scoring a number of times after this but the defence of the Panthers and errors by the Eagles saw them still behind at the end of the game.
A late try to the Panthers, literally on the bell, saw them to take out the game.
The reserve grade clash started badly for the Eagles when they had the bare 13 players to take the field and the Panthers quickly ran up a 28-0 lead by the break.
With players injured and the first grade squad needing players to back up, and start the game, the Eagles were unable to continue play in the second half.
The Under 18s clash saw the Eagles take the field without a reserve player and while they put up a good effort the Eagles went down in this game by 40-0.
The League Tag clash saw the Eagles take on the leading team in the comp and while they held them for most of the first half the Panthers dominated the second half, running out 40-12 winners.
Paige Ussher-Kinnear and Dakota Hillery scored tries for the Eagles and Hillery kicked a goal.
This Sunday sees the Eagles take on the South Grafton Rebels in four grades at Allan Gillett Oval, with the League Tag to kick off at 11am.