From the rucks

I THOUGHT that there were three outstanding games of Rugby last weekend at Rugby Park, South Grafton. The Mighty River Redmen certainly lifted the bar a with their most impressive showing of the season, dominating at the breakdown and cutting the Casino defence to shreds on a number of times. It has been a while since I've seen a Casino side so thoroughly defeated despite the fact that they got the better of the scrums and had an even tussle in the set pieces. While the running game from the Redmen backs was a highlight, the Grafton defence was again water tight against some pretty fair pressure from the Bulls on a few occasions. GRAFTON'S seconds came up against a pretty hot Casino side that will be right in the firing line this year, and were only pipped at the post, a few tight decisions perhaps counting against them. On that form, they can work themselves back into semi final contention and who knows where to from there. THE Redmen Colts, like their top grade, probably had their best outing and got a little closer to their huge potential. This was again an excellent game against a very good Casino side that wasn't disgraced by any means, but just found that Grafton had too many answers. The crowd was as good as I've seen for a normal club round in a number of years, in good spirits with barely any negative comment and plenty of positive banter from supporters of both sides. It mirrored another big turnout on Friday night for the juniors' sponsors' night. ANOTHER interesting feature was the referee in first grade, Grant Bateman, who works in Kuwait and makes rare sorties back to his home on the Far North Coast. A regular referee in the Gulf who has officiated at international level, his control and skill was great and added to a great game. There's more on that on offer this week Ken Muir, from the USA appointed to a first grade game up north. This international influence can only added to the appeal of the local game. AFTER bagging them all year, I must applaud the Wallabies for a gutsy defensive effort on Saturday night against the Springboks, and in particular Matt Dunning who has taken a bagging from all quarters for a couple of years. They showed that they are not as far from the mark as first thought, however it is really the old firm being back on deck that proved the difference, not new talent. And as admirable as the effort was, you don't expect to win too many games with when defending for 75% of the time. THINGS are tightening up in the race for the semi finals in Far North Coast Rugby with Casino, after consecutive losses looking more vulnerable, Tweed still putting results on the board, Lismore inconsistent and Yamba finding some form. There are four teams within a draw of each other for the fourth spot so all games are crucial. Ballina, after a bye, face a Lismore side that is very hot and cold so who knows what will happen here, but home ground and more consistency must favour Ballina. Tweed could sneak into the four with a good win at home against the hapless Lennox. Yamba have a tough one on the road at Wollongbar but the confidence to win finally, and win well against University last week may see them turn the corner and win again. Grafton are back on the road after three games at home and look to be too strong for the students at University. Casino have the bye to regroup.

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