Ballina too classy for Ghosts
By Tim Howard
THE Ballina Seagulls had far too much class in key positions for a a hard-working, but outgunned Grafton Ghosts team at Frank McGuren Field yesterday.
Ballina ran in 10 tries in their 54-22 win over Grafton, but it was a scoreline that flattered the visitors, who were forced to work hard for their victory.
Speedy centre Clarence Kelly ran in four tries and hooker Andrew Battese notched two, but the points came on the back of powerful work in the forwards, most noticeably Dylan Montgomery, who was brutal in defence and dynamic in attack.
Halfback Willy Hammond and five-eighth Sean Laurie stood head and shoulders over their Ghosts opposites, directing the play with clever short passes or quickly spreading it wide to their pacy outside men.
Grafton at times threatened to get into the game, but lost composure at key periods.
In the first half they fought back well when Aaron Marscham scored a brilliant try from a clever Josh Nagle kick to make it 10-6.
But soon after Laurie put Kelly through a yawning gap to score and then from the kick-off Ballina was in again.
The teams went try-for-try early in the second half after Grafton opened the scoring with a superb kick ahead from Travis Daley, who squeezed a short ball to Josh Ryder, backing up as always.
Ryder had plenty to do, but stepped past three would-be tacklers before crashing over 10m in from the right touchline.
Seagulls half Willie Hammond hit back straight away, then Ghosts' skipper Matt Michael scored his first try of the year.
Kelly scored his third for the afternoon when the Ghosts fumbled a kick-off across the touchline.
Hardworking Ghosts prop Shaun Davidson, backing up from Saturday's representative game against Newcastle, was outstanding. Late in the the second half he was held up over the line, but could not be denied a few minutes later, when he crashed over near the posts.
Ballina finally took the game away from the Ghosts in the final 15 minutes when hooker Andrew Battese dashed through the tiring defence for a brace of tries, centre Djaan Jarrett was too quick outwide and Kelly scored his fourth on fulltime.
Ballina coach Chris Binge was happy with his team's performance after toppling the two competition front-runners in previous weeks.
"After the highs of the past two weeks, it could have been difficult to get up for this game," he said.
Grafton captain coach Matt Michael said he was happy with his team's effort, but lamented the Ghosts inability to play for the full 80 minutes.
"We played brilliant football at times today," he said.
"But we can't play for the full 80 minutes."
FIRST GRADE: BALLINA 54 (Clarence Kelly 4, Andrew Battese 2, Willo James, Willy Hammond, Djaan Jarrett, Damian Buckley tries. Sean Laurie 4, Battese 1, Des Anderson 1 goals) d GRAFTON GHOSTS 22 (Aaron Marscham, Matt Michael, Shaun Davison, Josh Ryder tries. Chris Adamson 3 goals).
Half-time: Ballina 22 Grafton Ghosts 6. Referee: Dion Aldridge.
RESERVE GRADE: Ballina 28 (Mick Roberts 2, Jack Hodder, Jamie Quinn, Ben Crawford, Dan O'Connor tries. Quinn 1, Justin Bolt goal). d GRAFTON GHOSTS 16 (Jeremy Fahey 2, Joel Pearce 1 tries. Pearce 1, Chris Wilson goals).
UNDER-18s: GRAFTON GHOSTS 18 (Khan Williams 2, Cohen Collins 2 tries. Ben McLennan goal) d Ballina 12 (Matt Gibson, Willie Simpson tries. Gibson 1, Lachlan Crockett goals).