By DAVE MORRISON
GRAFTON and Casino do battle today in the Coopers Far North Coast Rugby action at South Grafton, in yet another tight game in which points are vital for both sides.
The first-placed Mighty River Redmen will face a tough challenge from the fourth-placed Bulls, who showed in last week's easy win over Yamba that they have plenty of scoring potential in them, enough to make them a serious threat.
A smallish, but willing, Casino pack is complemented by a fast and inventive back line that tends to thrive on opportunities given to them by their opposition.
The Bulls are probably the best opportunists in the competition and take full advantage of a great kicking game from their inside centre, Tory Gilmour.
The wet track is likely to suit them, Gilmour's kicking in behind the Grafton backs made all the more difficult to cover in slippery conditions.
Grafton will no doubt have been working hard to nullify this aspect of the Casino game.
The Redmen showed again last week, in the second half, that their mid-field defence is second to none with centres Jon Chevalley and Shane Denshire being tremendous to hold out the Lismore backs, who had a glut of possession.
Wet tracks reinforce the need for field position and control so the battle of the tight fives to dominate possession will probably tell the tale.
Grafton locks Matt Runge and Jono Speechley were great last week, their work rate and strength at the breakdown an important factor in the Redmen win.
Coach Gary Powell has the rare luxury of being able to name the same side for consecutive matches, always difficult at this stage of the season when injuries are common.
Grafton bounced back to form last week with a gritty win at Lismore to retain their competition lead.
Some observed that the first half, in which Grafton lead 12-5 by the break, was about the best Rugby seen in this year's competition to date.
The only concern for Powell was that again, his side struggled to put the game away in the second half after a strong showing in the early stanza, a facet of their play that has been common this year.
Casino will provide a stern test, and they will be under pressure to win to stay in the hunt for the semi-finals.
Just two games are on show today, the seconds against Casino kicking off proceedings at 1pm.