Rebels defence shines
By MAX GODBEE
SOUTH Grafton have been suspect in defence but it proved their strongpoint yesterday overcoming severe lack of possession to beat Marist Brothers 36-20 in Round Six of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition at McKittrick Park.
The Rebels had their first try on the board early in the game and led throughout the rest of the match to outscore their opponents seven tries to four for a big win.
However, they triumphed despite long periods without the ball. Marist Brothers were awarded 11 penalties to Rebels' four and clearly won the scrum count.
For the Rebels it was a case of tackle after tackle after tackle against a side renowned for its attacking ability and enjoying a surfeit of possession.
South Grafton captain coach Steve Kirby was stoked by his side's performance.
"The whole 17 players we used played their part," he said.
"We had no stand-out heroes, just a great team effort from all concerned.
"We were forced into too many long periods of defence, but when we did get the ball we made it count as our scoring of seven tries to four clearly shows.
"We came through with colours flying."
Yesterday's display marked a big improvement by the Rebels' line-up.
Two weeks back South Grafton were trounced by Ballina at Ballina, then last weekend Marist Brothers beat Ballina 30-nil, taking them into yesterday's match the warmest of favourites with everyone except die-hard Rebel supporters.
Although caned 7-2 in first half penalties, South Grafton scored five tries and restricted their opponents to just two in that period of play.
The Rebels were given a sniff of things to come with the opening try, three minutes into the game, and it was a real gem.
Second rower Scott Laurie hit the ball up hard over half way and passed overhead to Mark Laurie who got the ball quickly to his winger Dave Purcell to score in the corner.
The glut of possession continued to flow Brothers' way and one could have been forgiven for expecting the Rebels' heavy defensive load would cause them to tire, however the next time they gained possession they again made the most of it.
This time it was from a scrum win, with half back Andy Bell giving a quick pass to five-eighth Ray Mercy who beat three opponents on his way to the line.
Full back Doug Walker converted and Rebels were looking good leading 10-nil.
A short time later Brothers put up a bomb and their best forward Kevin Walker pounced on the bounce and crashed over under the crossbar.
With fullback Adrian Gooley kicking the goal the Rebels' lead was reduced to just four points, 10-6.
South Grafton came from another period of intense defensive play to score the try of the match when centre Paul Donovan handled twice and combined with fullback Doug Walker in a long run down the right sideline to give the Rebels' their third try.
Two more tries came for the Rebels, the first with Walker racing off a great pass from half back Bell and the second when winger Walter Donnelly pulled his way through three would-be tacklers to find the line.
Just before the half time siren Brothers, awarded their sixth penalty in a row and their seventh overall, attacked strongly with winger Lawrence Mercy pulling through some tired defence to score out wide.
However despite this fightback from the Rams, South Grafton were able to take a 26-10 lead into the break.
Each side scored two tries in the second session but a resolute Rebels' defence forestalled any danger that the visitors might peg back Souths' lead.
The game finished with South Grafton centre Paul Donovan fielding a chip kick from five-eighth Ray Mercy to touch down out wide for the well deserved 36-20 victory.