Redmen face test in trophy match

By DAVE MORRISON

The Grafton Jacaranda Hotel Redmen face another of the 2004 grand finalists when they travel to Casino for the annual Hollywood Trophy match in round 2 action of the Far North Coast Rugby Union.

After having taken defending premiers Lismore to the wire last week, they now face runners up, the Casino Bulls, on the Bulls home turf in another test of the strength of the Redmen challenge for this year's title.

Casino have lost few from last year's side that came so close to their first ever top grade title, and following last weeks easy win against University, will be confident of making it two on the trot.

Grafton's new look side performed with admirable commit- ment and execution last week, clawing back from an early 14 point deficit to lead right up to the dying minutes.

A repeat of that performance will give them every chance of winning, however, their challenge may be to get up again after having gone so close last week against the title favourites.

It should be a might clash up front, the sides boasting the two best scrums in the competition for some years now, and both will be looking to get the jump on their opponents at the engagement.

Both packs are large, and may tend to cancel each other out to a large extent.

Grafton coach Gary Powell would have been pleased with the marked improvement of his side's competitiveness at the tackle where they more than matched Lismore's traditional strength, but they will need more of the same against the perennially tenacious Bulls.

So often, Casino look outgunned, but they are always terribly hard to put away and have a habit of converting what opportunities that come their way.

The ability to score may well be the deciding factor.

Grafton have struggled in recent years but looked far more dangerous last week, with rookie fullback Justin Spurway leading the way with two excellent tries.

Casino's record at home has been pretty good in recent years, but Grafton's power up front and resolve midfield last week was hard to ignore.

A repeat of that may be just about good enough to take the points.

Grafton take their seconds and Under-19s away as well, and will be looking to open their account in both grades.

Both sides lost narrowly last week in heartening performances, and showed plenty of good signs that better things will happen as cohesion comes with more games.

The Colts in particular turned in a great effort to stay level until the end against the highly rated Lismore, a repeat effort likely to get the points.

SYDNEY. ? Stephen Larkham will be sidelined until at least April 30 after it was discovered the Brumbies five-eighth had a small fracture and deep bruising of his left arm.

Larkham returned to Canberra for an MRI scan after experiencing pain during a training session in Queenstown where the Brumbies were preparing for last night's match against the Highlanders.



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