Ghosts wilt as Cudgen up ante
By Tony White
LOYAL Grafton Ghosts supporters had plenty to cheer about at Frank McGuren Park yesterday.
They were already baying for more after the Under-18s won 26-nil and witnessing Ghosts reserve grade captain Darrin Heron, the Grafton XPT, launch into one of the most bone-jarring, teeth-ratting hits on a Cudgen player ever witnessed at the ground.
The Ghosts led throughout for 62 minutes of the first grade match until tiredness, injury, loss of focus and a commanding second half performance by Cudgen fullback Craig Thurston changed fortunes for the Hornets.
Cudgen coach Jamie Mathiou sent out a message for Thurston to come up into front line of attack and the brilliant representative player answered his coach's prayers darting around the ruck and continually putting players through gaps as the Ghosts defence tired.
Mentally and physically the Hornets lifted several gears and over the final 20 minutes ran right away with the match to win 38-18, after the scores were dead locked 6-all at half time.
Despite the Ghosts third straight loss there were plenty of positives to come from the match.
They successfully competed with Cudgen, considered near favourite for this year's premiership, and did it with the loss of two key players, hooker Aaron Marscham and second-rower, Tyson Donoghue.
Donoghue was taken to hospital suffering with concussion and Marscham, who had a whale of a game before he suffered concussion following a head knock on the ground, left the Ghosts reserve bench threadbare.
"Injury hurt us again and we ended up with no one left," lamented Ghosts captain-coach Matt Michael, who had a whole-hearted game and led from the front.
"We just can't seem to finish off a game. We've lost the knowledge how to win. We're there but just can't get over the line.
"In saying that the boy's put in a terrific effort. No one had a bad game.
"If we play like that every week we'll win more than we lose."
Mathiou also praised the Ghosts effort.
"We were lethargic in the first half, the penalty count didn't help, but to the Ghosts credit they improved," he said.
"I wasn't happy with our effort in all three grades but our blokes haven't played much footy and need match fitness.
"I'd like to give Grafton a rap for competing well."
Mathiou admitted pushing Thurston forward "made a big difference.
"He was able to spark the side and we certainly needed that," Mathiou said.
Craig Cook opened Cudgen's scoring in the 26th minute after a tight opening stanza then Grafton hit back following a brilliant chip by Travis Daley that saw Warwick Brown over in the corner.
In the second half the Ghosts hopes lifted when Schis Adamson scored after a penalty to Grafton when Cudgen kicked out on the full from their own line.
Cudgen winger Jackson Hardy scored in the 48th minute to get Cudgen back to 12-10 then Daley was again prominent when Josh Ryder scored, Grafton leading 18-10.
A great one handed ball by Thurston saw half back Steve O'Keefe in under the posts and Cudgen had pulled back to trailing 16-18.
Scott Julius, Joe Pritchard and quality centre Brian McCarthy all scored for Cudgen to put the game beyond reach.
Grafton had plenty of stars, five-eighth Trent Lawrence tackled anything that moved and was creative in attack.
Club stalwart Shaun Davison had a great game and half Josh Nagle and lock Josh Ryder were prominent. Fullback Chris Adamson, who scored a good try, was solid under the high ball and in defence, spoilt his endeavours when he became involved in his second melee late in the game and along with Damien Bryant (Cudgen) was sin binned for 10 minutes.
For Cudgen, Thurston, Bryant, big Joe Talua, hooker Cook and Wade Hall with his powerful busts and uncompromising defence stood out for the Hornets.
FIRST GRADE: CUDGEN 38 (Craig Thurston, Jackson Hardy, Brian McCarthy, Joe Pritchard, Steve O'Keefe, Craig Cook, Scott Julius trys; Nick Mobbs 4, Craig Thurston goals) d GRAFTON 18 (Chris Adamson, Josh Ryder trys; Chris Adamson 3 goals).
RESERVE GRADE: CUDGEN 40 (Damien Perry 2, Mick Kaufman 2, Dan Chaumont, Roger Nganwoo, Mick Coleman tries; Chris Kennedy 5, Adam Lennan goals) d GRAFTON 22 (Jason Cheney, Dion Donnelly, Brett Wicks, Mick Bullivant tries; Andy Bell 2 goals).
UNDER-18: GRAFTON 26 (Carson Galloway, Khan Williams, Ben McLennan, Cohen Collins, Rob McRae tries; ben McLennan 2, Rhys Walters goals) d CUDGEN 0.