Ghosts fortunes reverse
By TONY WHITE
DESPITE finishing on the wrong end of a lopsided 17-4 penalty count and having a player sin binned for ten minutes, a white hot Ballina Seagulls outfit proved too tough and too classy for the Grafton Ghosts at Frank McGuren Park yesterday.
The Seagulls ran out 44-14 winners and gave gave notice they will be a major force in this season's Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League premiership.
"Our defence was great, our completion rates were good and we controlled the ball," Seagulls coach Chris Binge said. "It wasn't so much individuals out there, it was a great team effort.
"And as a team I believe we can get better. There's a fair bit of improvement in us yet."
In a tough match, with one incident late in the game involving an ugly throw tackle by a Ghosts player likely to be investigated by the Northern Rivers league executive, the Ghosts must now regroup before next week's game against Marist Brothers.
Rugby league reality set in yesterday after the Ghosts being on a high all week following its first up defeat of Lower Clarence.
"Disappointing," Ghosts coach Matt McKee said. "We didn't talk it up and made too many errors.
"There was no talk. We started good then they (the team) went quiet. There wasn't the enthusiasm that was evident last week.
"Too much one out stuff and not working together."
McKee however remained philosophical.
"Ballina are very quick, very agile," he said. "We've got a lot to learn from this game.
"If Ballina are considered top-three material on today, there's hope for us.
"I know we can improve on what we showed out there today.
"In the first half we didn't have the ball for nearly 20 minutes. The boys were out on their feet from having to do so much work and just had nothing left."
Two Ballina tries in the final five minutes of the first half proved the turning point in the game, the Seagulls breaking away to lead 26-2 at half-time after tries to Milton Thaiday, Ashley Moran and big Les Roberts then winger Clayton Morris and class fullback Shaun Laurie crossed in the 36th and 38th minute.
The raps on former Waratah Thaiday are justified. He oozes class, has electric speed and a wonderful feel for the game. Centre partner Moran is also lightning quick and along with Thaiday each scored two tries and were elusive all day.
Grafton fought back strongly early in the second stanza and with Phil Warby crossing in the 16th minute and Chris Adamson's conversion, the Ghsots trailed 26-8.
While Carney scored in the 23rd minute for Grafton, Ballina found increasing holes in the Ghosts defence and raced in for three more tries for an emphatic win.
Ballina's Laurie at fullback is similar in build and plays much like Cronulla Sharks fullback, David Peechey and clever five-eighth Justin Bolt was in everything, putting players into gaps, making breaks, tackling with purpose and was able to adroitly set up his outside speed men.
But it was Ballina's mobile forward pack that set the platform for the team's win. They out muscled the Ghosts, hunted in a pack and made their tackles hurt.
There were some massive hits in the match.
Prop Grant Erickson was outstanding and young second-rowers, mop-topped Matt Slattery and Mitch Aubusson are dynamic in attack and defence.
"We've got a bunch of young blokes in the pack who are talented and enthusiastic and that lifts the rest of the team," Binge said. "Grant Erickson is a big asset to the club, he had an outstanding game and the two back-rowers had blinders."
Best for the Ghosts was Warby, who was safe at fullback and made good inroads when attacking.
Don Dickson played strongly, particularly in the second half and forwards Josh Ryder, Shaun Davison and Brett Wicks kept trying.