Mustangs sprint away from gallant Rebels
By MAX GODBEE
MURWILLUMBAH Mustangs continued on their unbeaten way in the 2005 Northern Rivers Rugby League competition, defeating South Grafton 36-22 in a hard-fought round 10 game at McKittrick Park yesterday.
South Grafton looked marginally the better side for the first half and after leading 12-0 at one stage, had a 12-10 advantage heading into the break.
The Mustangs turned things around in the second session, scoring four tries to the Rebels' two.
They had the first try of this half on the board after just two minutes and another 10 minutes later, both converted, to go 10 points in front, leading 20-12.
Although they had to battle hard for each point they were never going to lose from then on.
Neither team ever lost consistency and the crowd saw plenty of action in one of the best games on McKittrick Park this year.
The win gives Murwillumbah 19 competition points from a possible 20, winning nine of their games to date, and drawing the other in a pointscoring bonanza 38-38 against Tweed Heads Seagulls in round two.
The Rebels have won seven of their 10 games to be on 14 points and still well in semi-final contention.
Mustangs' coach, Con Theodosiou, said yesterday's was a tough game "tougher for me, I reckon, than for the players.
"I had to stay on the sideline and that was a harder ask than being out on the field playing.
"We knew South Grafton would be hard on McKittrick Park and they certainly were."
Rebel captain/coach Stevie Kirby said he was pleased with the way his teammates had stood up to such a powerful team as Murwillumbah.
"I rate the first half as the best and most enjoyable 40 minutes of football we have played this year.
"Our forwards gave us every chance but the Mustangs were just too good in the second half. It is no secret that we dearly miss the non-stop workload of back row forward Scott Laurie who is out suspended."
Kirby also praised the refereeing of Peter O'Connor, saying both sides knew they were getting a fair go throughout the match.
South Grafton's first try came nine minutes into the game, set-up by a typical barging run from prop forward Xavier Sullivan, finally brought down just two metres from the Mustangs' line.
The ball was played quickly and swung through half a dozen pairs of hands to centre Mark Laurie for a final pass to winger Dave Purcell who scored in the corner.
Halfback Dallas Waters kicked the long-range conversion to give the Rebels a 6-0 lead.
It looked like it was going to be a Rebels' day when just a few minutes later they brought up their second try. This one started on their own 30-metre line with a twisting run from Kirby before passing to five-eighth Ray Mercy, who ran hard and straight into Murwillumbah territory.
Dallas Waters was there to take the final pass and race 30 metres to touch down out wide.
Waters again kicked the conversion for the 12-0 advantage.
The Mustangs hit back taking advantage of a South Grafton knock-on to swing the ball out wide for left winger Ricky Lang to burst over in the corner.
Murwillumbah almost scored again five minutes later from an intercept and a 60-metre run but were denied right on the line when the referee ruled a double movement.
They made up for it six minutes from the half time when fullback Shannon Murphy fielded a high kick and ran past the whole South Grafton team to score.
With winger Ryan Murphy kicking the conversion Murwillumbah had reduced the deficit to just two points, 10-12.
Two early tries in the second half, one to second rower Jarrod Flick and the other to outside centre Bradley Wann, both tries converted, gave the Mustangs a 22-12 lead and it seemed they might run away with the game.
However each side scored two tries from there and the Rebels were unable to turn the scoreline around.
Best players for the victors were prop Steve Kirkham particularly with his consistent charging runs, ably supported by second rower Jarrod Flick and nippy halfback Ben White.
Again outstanding for the Rebels was damaging prop Xavier Sullivan, making big inroads each time he received possession and completing plenty of tackles. He was supported well by fellow prop Daine Laurie, hooker Kirby, lock Colby Schrader and halfback Dallas Waters.