By DAVE MORRISON
A DISAPPOINTING final 20 minutes proved costly for the Jacaranda Hotel Redmen on Saturday, losing 9-19 at Casino.
In a tryless first half the scores were locked at 9-9 at the break, and there was no change for a further 20 minutes as neither side gained the ascendency in a tight encounter.
However the decisive moment came in the final quarter, with the home side capitalising on a dropped ball to toe it through and score what turned out to be the critical try.
From there, Grafton seemed to lose their way, and perhaps a little heart, and conceded another late try to seal the result.
It could have been so much different.
The Redmen were right in the game in the first stanza, and probably the better side as their powerful pack came out on top of a tough Casino eight.
However, they paid for some ill-discipline, too often conceding penalties when in good attacking position, which disrupted their momentum.
While not playing with quite the intensity of the previous week, Grafton looked really good early and at the break, would have been quietly confident of go- ing on with the job.
The fact that they didn't must have been a disappointment for coach Gary Powell.
However, he would have been heartened to some extent by the showing of his pack, and the defensive effort from his backs, showing again that they are right up there with last year's grand finalists.
An inability to capitalise when on top once more was decisive and is an area where the Redmen will need to pay attention to.
Mark Robinson at second row was a standout, pulling off some big hits and being his side's best go-forward man in the pack.
Prop Dan Hayne played strongly as well, going right to the end.
Out wide, winger Scott Lloyd showed plenty of potential and fullback Justin Spurway was strong.
Grafton scored late to seal a tight result in reserves while an under-strength Colts found Casino too strong in the Under19s.
LISMORE City has leapt to the top of the table with a tough 24-10 victory over Wollongbar-Alstonville at Lismore Rugby Park.
City earned a bonus point in their win with halfback Steve Hughes outstanding while filling in for NSW Country Under20 rep Ben Sloane.
Flankers Heath Conlan and Jamie Olivieri and centres Nigel Marshall and Mitch Mowle also played well.
City led 12-0 at half-time and 24-5 before the Pioneers scored late in the match.
Second-rower Roman Lakomy, hooker Ben Grayndler, five-eighth Nick Henry and halfback Matt Duke were best.