GHOSTS HAMMER DULL MAGPIES
By TONY WHITE
WITH a home-grown product of hungry young lions, Grafton Ghosts out-muscled and out enthused Lower Clarence Magpies at Maclean Showground to score an uplifting 30-16 win in the opening round of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby Leage competition yesterday.
"Mate, inspirational stuff," Ghost's delighted new coach Matt McKee enthused.
"Our enthusiasm was a massive factor. We out-muscled them and out-played them.
"Tremendous, just tremendous. I'm tickled pink.
"Our big men went forward all day and they (Lower Clarence) couldn't stop them."
The victory in the local derby for the Terry Randall Shield was sweet, sweet indeed.
Fielding a team of 10 local players and others who have been with the club for several years, the Ghosts limited their mistakes, played to some masterful tactics devised by McKee and showed tremendous pride in the blue and white jumper.
For the Magpies, who opened the purse strings in the off-season and recruited heavily, the loss was humbling.
"They Ghosts played the game like we should have," disappointed captain-coach Jason Hebbard admitted. "They were enthusiastic, up in our faces all day and their talk was good.
"Simply, they played better.
"We turned over too much ball in our half and made too many mistakes.
"We've got a new side and obviously it's taking a while to come together.
"We're not panicking. We'll regroup at training on Tuesday and look ahead to our next match."
Dropped ball, mistakes and missed tackles cost Lower Clarence dearly.
And their tactics of running one-out too often was adeptly covered by the tigerish Ghosts defence which was outstanding.
McKee's ploy to work the ball one and two off the ruck was masterful. Time and time again the Ghosts, with quick pinpoint passing made deep inroads into Magpies territory.
Diminutive hooker Jason Vidler, 30, back with the club after undergoing a double hernia operation on both sides of his groin which kept him out of football last year, was outstanding in attack and defence and a worthy man of the match.
He also substituted at half back for periods in the second half and again starred.
"This is great, especially for all the young blokes," said Vidler, who has been with the club since 1991. "We did the simple things right and played at our speed.
"It's a terrific feeling."
The Ghosts were first on the scoreboard when nuggety centre Brad Johnson intercepted a pass from Aaron Murry and outsped his rivals over 80m to score adjacent to the posts. With Chris Adamson's conversion, the Ghosts led 6-nil after 6 minutes and stretched it to 8-nil after an Adamson penalty goal.
Magpies classy half Jason Wilkinson then scored a solo try after a smart chip kick and the goal was converted by Murry.
With holes appearing constantly in the Magpies defence one off the ruck, the Ghosts continually broke through before Vidler barged over from dummy half in the 24th minute and with Adamson's conversion, led 12-6.
Johnson then scored his second when he beat two tackles and with Adamson's conversion it was 18-6 to the Ghosts at half-time.
Ten minutes into the second half following a great 40-20 kick by the Magpies, winger Jake Thorton was awarded a try from the ensuing scrum although it appeared his foot had gone into touch before scoring.
Following chain passing with replacement Kyle Walters heavily involved, class five-eighth Don Dickson scored 19 minutes into the second stanza and with Adamson's conversion, the Ghosts raced to a 24-10 lead. Three minutes later following some clever work down the short blind side by Trent Barber, flying winger Warwick Brown scored to give the Ghosts an unassailable 30-10 lead. Hard-working Magpies hooker Chris Brophy scored nine minutes later but the bird had flown. Apart from Vidler, Shaun Davison, Matt Michaels, Dickson and Adamson had powerful games for the Ghosts. Carney did some good work, Barber was clever and Brett Wicks was in the thick of the action all day. The Magpies were best served by Terry Power, Brophy, fullback Luke Many and halfback Wilkinson who looks a good buy for the club.