Defeat brings Magpies to earth

LOWER Clarence Magpies players yesterday trudged off the Maclean Showground field with their shoulders slumped after suffering their first defeat of the 2007 Retravision Northern League season at the hands of a committed Ballina side, going down 27-16. The result could have been different if not for two disallowed tries in the second half. The first saw Dave Purcell hit the corner post, and the second was disallowed after a touch judge made a late knock-on decision. Play in the opening minutes of the match promised a tight game, with both teams sliding well in defence and looking strong in attack. Five-eighth Roy Bell demonstrated his flair for reading the play in the third minute, picking up a fumbled Ballina ball on the 10-metre line and easily outrunning defence to touch down in the left hand corner. The game quietened down to rhythmic sets of six, until the 21st minute when Ballina halfback Willie Hammond spotted a breakdown in the Lower Clarence sliding defence, evening the score line to 6-6 with a converted try. He again fooled the Magpies' inside defence, using a stealthy dummy pass to slip through under the posts. At half-time Ballina were ahead 14-6, but deterioration in ball control and on-field communication meant the game was still up for grabs. After a lacklustre opening half from both sides, the Seagulls put the Magpies' defence to the test as they turned up the heat in the second half. The Seagulls gave themselves breathing space when Willie Hammond touched down for a converted try in the 20th minute of the second half, the 14-point gap on the scoreboard too large for the Magpies to make up. They did make an inroad when Daniel Randall scored late in the piece, but their subsequent efforts as full-time approached fell short. Deflated after his team's first defeat, Magpies captain coach Dallas Waters said the home side was outclassed by a side that knew when to apply pressure. "Ballina are a good, well-structured side. They completed their sets of six well, I can't fault their game. In many ways we were our own worst enemy, " Waters said. we gave away too many penalties and made too many mistakes," he said. "We prepared well for the match, but things just didn't work out for us. After we scored the first try we slackened off and that was our downfall. "Ballina's coach Chris Binge would have had his team primed for a tough match, and he did a really good job." A damp field and Ballina's dogged defensive line prevented the Magpies from settling into their usual fast-paced game. These factors, combined with fatigue from long spells spent in defence, were what Waters said led to the demise of his team. "It rained earlier in the day during the Under-18s match so the ground was wet and the ball was really greasy. Every time we tried to get a roll on we dropped the ball," he said. "They held us down in tackles which slowed us down a lot and meant we didn't get many breaks, and the Ballina defence kept in our faces. They played a really good game and we just didn't rise to the occasion. "At the end of the day we weren't able to get in a position to get the ball to our backs which made it really hard. We're going to go away this week and work on all the areas that didn't pan out for us and hopefully pick up our game next weekend against South Tweed."

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