Back to back wins a must for Redmen
By Dave Morrison
Last week's win was welcome, however, it will count for little if the Jacaranda Hotel Grafton Rugby don't back it up with another when they host the Wollongbar Alstonville Pioneers in this afternoon's Far North Coast Rugby action at South Grafton.
Even at this early stage of the season, Grafton seem to be locked in a four way tussle for possibly one semi final spot with today's rivals, plus University and Yamba already a couple of game adrift of the big three in the competition, Ballina, Lismore and Casino.
A lot can change, however, the ability to put together back to back wins, plus some bonus points, will be crucial in deciding how the semi final positions pan out.
Wollongbar have an early edge with a couple of wins over Uni and the Buccaneers, but will be facing their biggest test to date with the long road trip and a fired up Redmen side buoyed by last week's local derby win.
The two sides look evenly matched and play a similar style, most of their trump cards being in their forward pack, relying on possession to win their matches rather than flair.
This has all the portents of another gritty, physical struggle likely to go down to the wire.
The Grafton pack put on a couple of tries for the purists last week, 20 metre rolling mauls resulting in two matchwinning tries.
Exceptionally well constructed, the rolling juggernaut is almost impossible to defend against without giving away penalties, and it is sure to figure in coach Gary Powell's game plan.
The Pioneers will back their chances of matching it with the Grafton eight, as this is where their strength also lies, today seeing the clash of the two biggest packs in the competition.
Paradoxically, the game may be determined out wide, especially if the arm wrestle up front is inconclusive.
Wollongbar hold a trump in the ever dangerous utility back, Nick Glynn, while Grafton's attacking stocks will be bolstered by the return of Jon Chevalley at five-eighth and the added pace and finish of Tom Gerrard on the wing.
While the result may be open, the one sure bet is that the game will provide great entertainment value in a no-holdsbarred encounter.