It?s ?just another game? for comp leaders
By DAVE MORRISON
THERE'S a whiff of semi-final atmosphere in the build up, but for the Mighty River Redmen it's just another game when they host the Yamba Buccaneers in today's big local derby in the Coopers Far North Coast Rugby competition.
Interest in today's game is almost unprecedented for a regular competition round with the undefeated Grafton expected to be sorely tested by second placed Yamba who will be right up for their big litmus test.
However, Grafton coach Gary Powell is nonplussed with all the build up.
"For us, it's just another game. Wollongbar came right at us last week and we repelled that challenge well, and expect Yamba to do the same today," he said.
"We've been going pretty well so we expect that other teams will be lining up to knock us off."
As Powell indicated it is only early days with the competition not yet at the halfway mark and September's big games a long way off.
Nevertheless, it is hard not to get enthused by today's clash.
Grafton have done all that could be asked of them this year, winning all six games by comfortable margins, securing the bonus point for scoring four tries before half time in each.
Their 53 tries scored while conceding just 11 is an impressive record that has them clear early season favourites.
However, their Clarence River neighbours, have steadily built a strong reputation following their elevation to the top grade last year, to the extent that they are deserving challengers for the top spot on this year's table.
They have lost just the once, to a strong Wollongbar, and with impressive wins of the likes of traditional power houses Lismore and premiers Ballina, they are more than credible opposition for the Redmen today.
Equally impressive as their results has been the way they go about the game, a free-flowing attacking style that is most dangerous on the counter attack.
Grafton have retained the same side that walloped Wollongbar last week.
Once more, their pack is expected to dominate the set pieces as they have done all year to date, with locks Matt Runge and Jono Speechley in great form.
Grafton's side this year has a well balanced look to it with neither the backs or forwards being a particular strength.
This balance has allowed them to be responsive to whatever the opposition has thrown at them.
With Yamba's strength clearly in their backline, a fast, free flowing game is assured.
The third grade game opens proceedings at 1.20pm and will be equally competitive.
An exhibition Under-10 game will precede the main game at 2.30pm.