THE Grafton Ghosts' shock 34-22 loss to the Ballina Seagulls yesterday might have cost them the chance to host the NRRRL major semi-final later this season.
Unbeaten this season until their loss to the Murwillumbah Mustangs late last month, the Ghosts have now lost two of their past three matches.
Yesterday's result means they have slipped to second on the points ladder behind the Mustangs, who beat Lower Clarence 30-10 at Maclean yesterday.
The Ghosts were on the back foot from the start against the Seagulls, who scored their opening try after charging down the home side's first kick of the day.
The rub of the green remained with the visitors, who maintained pressure throughout to cause a major boilover at Frank McGuren Park.
"Full credit to the Seagulls, they played really good footy today," Ghosts captain-coach Ryan Farrell said.
"I thought every one of our blokes played well too but we were guilty of pushing our passes and dropping the ball at critical stages again.
"That cost us dearly against Murwillumbah and it hurt us again."
Farrell was not too concerned about how the end of the season was shaping and said he would concentrate instead on getting his boys back into the winners' circle next week against Marist Brothers.
"I don't really think about how that will affect us later in the season. The main thing at the moment is to make sure we get back on top in our next few matches," Farrell said.
"There are no easy games in this competition and we can't get complacent and hope to coast to the finals."
Dual try-scorer Aaron Hartmann was a standout for the Ghosts, as was the ever-dangerous ball-runner Joel Moss.
But their efforts were overshadowed by the relentless, and sometimes lucky, Seagulls, who made the most of their opportunities to put the points on the board.
The Lower Clarence Magpies hosted the Mustangs at Maclean Showground but were outclassed by the competition front-runners to go down 30-10.
That win lifts the Mustangs to the outright lead on the NRRRL table and puts them in prime position to host the major semi-final.
Ballina Seagulls 34 def Grafton Ghosts 22
Murwillumbah Mustangs 30 def Lower Clarence Magpies 10