Redmen out to stay on track
By JOHN DRYESDALE.
WHILE competition leaders and premiers Lismore enjoy a bye, Ballina and Grafton clash in the match of the round in Grafton in the Far North Coast Rugby Union competition tomorrow.
Grafton, the form team of the past three rounds, thumped Wollongbar by 50 points last week and earlier accounted for Casino and Yamba.
Grafton's resurgence came to a halt at Oakes Oval last Saturday when their forward pack ran out of puff against the lively Lismore eight who paved the way for a City victory.
Grafton is just three points behind Ballina on the ladder and needs a win to stay in touch with the top three. With the Ballina pack in form and their backline playing expansively, the Redmen will have their work cut out to keep up the pace. Last week Grafton five-eighth Jon Chevally made several early breaks against Lismore but lacked support.
Home crowd support should lift the Redmen but they will need a massive improvement to beat Ballina.
Casino could draw level with Lismore if they beat Wollongbar Alstonville and pick up a bonus point. The Pioneers have been hampered in recent weeks with injuries and things have not improved this week. The Bulls scraped home in an entertaining match against University last week, picking up a bonus point for their efforts and with their confidence restored, should have a comfortable win at home over Wollongbar
The University Gold Rats are 10 points away from a semi-final spot and need to win every game from now on to have a chance of making it. They play Yamba at home tomorrow and know they will have a tough battle.
Both sides like to move the ball along the backs so it is sure to be an entertaining match.
In reserve grade, Grafton held out a strong challenge from Lismore and Ballina was too good for Wollongbar last weekend, setting the stage for a showdown of the two top teams in reserve grade at Grafton tomorrow.
Grafton's pack has also been their strength but they will need to play above themselves tomorrow to get on top of Ballina.
Wollongbar are comfortably in fourth place on the ladder and a win over Casino will put them one point ahead of Lismore.
However, with their first grade depleted and Casino much improved since their last encounter, their prospects do not look good.