Redmen prevail in arm-wrestle
By DAVE MORRISON
IT was a bit of an arm wrestle more suited to a semi-final, but the result was just what the Grafton Jacaranda Hotel Redmen needed, with the locals out-muscling Ballina 19-8 at Rugby Park, South Grafton, on Saturday.
A game more for the rugby purists than the spectators, it showed that the Redmen have the toughness for semi-final football as they went about dominating the set pieces.
Uncompromising defence from both sides, at the fringes of the rucks and in the midfield, set the tone for the day and meant that possession from first phase, and discipline at the breakdown, were going to be crucial.
Tellingly, Grafton were clear winners in these areas and this was instrumental in their decisive win, even if the try-scoring honours were shared one apiece.
Grafton lock Simon Green got his side on the board first with two, pressure penalty goals in the opening 20 minutes.
Ballina replied soon after with a try resulting from a defensive lapse in the Grafton centres. It was just about the only clean line break all day.
The Redmen kept their discipline and game plan, with their scrum slowly getting on top and a dominant lineout, they gained vital possession and field position to keep the visitors under pressure. They were rewarded shortly before halftime with the crucial try of the game, a rolling maul effort which led to captain Robbie Brown crashing over.
Penalties were traded to give Grafton a slightly deceptive, but nonetheless crucial, halftime lead of 16-8.
At this stage, there was little in the game although there was the suspicion that the Grafton forwards were getting on top. The big question mark was whether the Redmen defence could keep the dangerous Ballina backline at bay.
The second half become a real tussle, neither side giving the other any latitude with crunching defence.
Grafton's growing ascendency up front kept them in good field position for much of the half and denied Ballina any real try-scoring opportunities.
In the end, it was a deserved win for the Redmen against quality opponents who quite likely loom as semi-final opposition in six week's time.
Prop Chris Jackson was probably Grafton's best, coming out on top in a tough scrum tussle against a more experienced rival and his line out throwing was instrumental in Grafton's decisive domination of this phase.
As is usual, lock Mark Robinson stood out in a very good pack, while prop Dan Hayne and flanker Paul Cameron put in plenty of work.
The Ray White Real Estate Seconds ground out a 20-12 win over the previously undefeated Ballina with prop Beau Brotherson having a blinder.
The Mark Bloomer Transport Thirds kept their semi-final prospects alive with another tough, but in the end decisive, 17-0 victory.