Magpies ?scrap? way to win
By TONY WHITE
LOWER CLarence won an 80-minute 'scrapathon' against Grafton Ghosts at Maclean Showground yesterday to win back the Terry Randall Memorial Shield.
The 34-16 victory and wins in all three grades will hopefully provide a tonic to help arrest internal problems over the past few weeks in the club involving players non attendance at training.
The game featured more dropped ball than a butter-fingered slips cordon, 20-odd scrums and 21 penalties (Ghosts 12, Lower 9), injuries and enough stoppages to do the Sydney rail network justice.
Gold Coast-based Aaron Murray, however, had an outstanding match for the Magpies and was a clear man of the match winner.
Twenty-five-year-old Murray, who runs a roofing business on the Gold Coast, shored up the Magpies attack and defence, creating a wealth of opportunities for his support players and defensively cutting down Ghosts runners with timing and precision.
Murray was also forced to take on a leadership and goal kicking role when Lower captain-coach Jason Wilkinson was forced off after 15 minutes with what he described post match as 'a sternum injury'.
"I'm enjoying my football," the nuggetty five-eighth said.
"It was very disappointing last week (beaten 62-12 by Cudgen) but we made sure of a big effort this week, especially playing for the Terry Randall Shield."
Murray is in his second season with the Magpies after playing previously with the Southport Tigers.
"I'll play wherever the team want me," the utility back said.
"I've played just about everywhere except the front-row, but five-eighth is good especially with China (Jason Wilkinson) inside me."
Murray scored a two tries kicked four goals and produced two 40-20 kicks in the second half which eventually led to tries.
The initial kick off proved a portent to the Ghosts' day. They kicked out on the full and when receiving, Murray came up with a try after 90 seconds and to start the second half Jason Vidler was carried over the sideline, resulting in a scrum feed to Lower and another try.
Lower dominated early Murray with a double and fullback Dane Walker scoring with Lower leading 18-nil before Aaron Marscham diving over in the 27th minute for the Ghosts from a scrum to trail 18-4.
In the 31st minute centre Ken Mercy scored the first of his three tries and repeated the dose six minutes later to leave Lower 28-4 up at half time.
Following a Murray 40-20 blinder, Mercy dashed through a gap from the ensuing scrum and Lower had the game parcelled up leading 34-4.
The Ghosts, who lifted, hit back with Travis Daley and Warwick Brown scoring, Brown's 60m effort in the 69th minute and Chris Adamson's conversion the final points scored in the match (34-16).
"I'm very happy with the win, hopefully we can get some winning momentum now. We've had a patchy start," Wilkinson said.
"Our first half was good and the second half we lost our way a bit.
"Our completion rates have been ordinary, we'll have to work on that but there's good talent in this side."
Second-rower Ryan Binge came off with an ankle injury which will be checked through the week.
Ghosts captain-coach Matt Michael, who broke a finger on his right hand during the match, said the result was disappointing.
"The finger won't keep me out," Michael vowed.
"We got off to a poor start but won the second half. This week our final 20 minutes was probably our best so there are some positives but it's disappointing to lose."
Half Andy Bell, hooker Josh Ryder and prop Sean Davison were best for the Ghosts.
Aaron Marscham was taken to hospital after running off the field late in the game and heading straight for his car.
"I understand he had his front teeth knocked out and needed treatment," Michael said.
FIRST GRADE: LOWER CLARENCE 34 (Ken Mercy 3, Aaron Murray 2, Dane Walker tries; Aaron Murray 4, Jason Wilkinson goal) d GRAFTON 16 (Aaron Marscham, Warwick Brown, Travis Daley tries; Chris Adamson 2 goals). Referee: Dion Aldridge. Half-time: 28-4 Lower Clarence. Penalties: Grafton 12, Lower Clarence 9.
RESERVE GRADE: LOWER CLARENCE 44 (Damien Randall 2, Zane Purcell, Michael Randall, Anthony Hickling, Scott Laurie, Dane Laurie, Grant Brown tries; Grant Brown, Damien Randall 2 goals) d GRAFTON 12 (Jason Cheney, Jamie Lafferty tries; Joel Pearce 2 goals).
LOWER CLARENCE 14 (Simon Harrison, Tom Martin, Lenny Anderson tries; Lenny Anderson goal) d GRAFTON 12 (Josh McLachlan, Scott Bennett tries; Scott Bennett 2 goals).