Macksville Sea Eagles League Tag and Under 18 team secure spot in Group 2 grand final

In one fell swoop, our Sea Eagles have landed not one, but two teams onto this year's grand final field.

This is the second year in a row the Macksville Rugby League Club will send two of its teams into battle for the Group 2 crown.

The hard-earned double victory was made sweeter after the bitterness from the week before, when both the First Grade and Reserves lost out in tightly-fought elimination semi-finals.

The Under 18 lads stood in solidarity with the League-Tag ladies yesterday as they warmed up for their maiden finals appearance - a gesture which coach/captain Relle Donovan said meant a hell of a lot to her team.

The Sea Eagles women had prepared themselves well mentally for the fight ahead, but noone was ready for the gruelling scoreless match that followed.

"We're all pretty wrecked from it," Relle said. "Because noone scored in the first or second half we weren't able to relax into the game."

Fumbled balls from both the Macksville and Sawtell sides meant it was a defence-heavy game from the outset.

"It was one of the best defensive games from the girls I've ever seen," Relle said. "One of our girls ran down the fastest player on the Sawtell side. They never gave up."

With no points on the board, the game went into overtime - a set of five minute halves.

Three minutes into the second overtime half and it looked like the game could go into a Golden Point showdown, that is until Paige Ussher-Kinnear got a line break, taking on the fullback one-on-one to score for Macksville just to the side of the post. Kirstie Pedrola then put it away for six.

"We were warming up when we heard the cheer go up. We raced over and were stoked to see it was one of our players who had run it in," Under 18s coach Todd Bartlett said.

The women's victory primed the boys for their own skirmish against Sawtell. Our lads never even gave them a chance.

Despite the first 15 minutes being in Panthers' possession, the ball never broke the Macksville defensive line.

In their first shot at attack, the Sea Eagles' Logan Jones stepped through the very physical Panther pack and scored.

"That deflated them, after not being able to crack our line," Todd said.

Macksville put another try away before the first half ended.

"Then in the second we had the breeze behind us and we just carried on the way we'd started," Todd said.

"Our forwards were very strong in the middle of the field for us, allowing our back line to capitalise on their dominance."

Relle said the Under 18s' attack game is the strongest she's seen in the competition for that age group.

The first 20 minutes of the Sawtell onslaught took it out of the boys and fatigue crept into the final 10 minutes of the Macksville game, allowing the Panthers to get two tries in.

But it was purely to save face, with the Sea Eagles securing their grand final place with an end result of 24:12.

Not only do they go into the finals unbeaten, but they also head in uninjured too - *knock on wood*.

"We hope we can keep that luck up for one more game," Todd said.

We're quietly confident we've got another big game in us, and we'll have a really strong side for the final.

Both winning Macksville teams are ready for the final showdown in two weeks' time in Coffs Harbour.

"The girls are pumped, and I can't wait to run out with them," Relle said.

She said they'll be focussing on their attacking game during the next few training sessions.

While for the boys, they've earned a week of light training before they amp up again for the endgame.

Both teams were appreciative of the strong local support at the weekend, and are again hoping to have the community right there with them as they prepare to make history in a fortnight.

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