Redmen repel marauding Buccaneers
By Dave Morrison
RUGBY is alive and flourishing on the Clarence, evidenced by Saturday's thrilling local derby at Grafton in which the Grafton Redmen withstood a fast-finishing Yamba Buccaneers, 14-10, to retain their undefeated start to the Coopers Far North Coast Rugby season.
The top of the table match drew a bumper crowd and none could have left disappointed after witnessing a typically hard, no-quarter-given, local derby that established the premiership credentials of both sides.
The Mighty River Redmen got away to a solid start and with two tries in the opening 20 minutes, capitalising on a mountain of possession, they had established an ominous 14-0 lead.
Winger Shane Denshire was over out wide early, off a Gary Powell pass, and with Aaron Taylor's ultimately telling conversion, the home side was ahead 7-0.
More possession to the Redmen saw them dominate territory resulting in their second try on the half hour mark, half Brett Graham capitalising off the back of a ruck near the Yamba goal posts.
It looked like business as usual for the Redmen at this stage, however things certainly didn't pan out that way.
The Buccaneers worked themselves back into the game with a hard, dour approach that took the game right up to the Redmen.
Their simple but effective sliding defence nullified the Grafton backline and their pack competed hard at every contest.
They were rewarded just before the break with an unconverted try off a pick and drive once they finally got a chance inside the Grafton quarter, and by the break, the momentum had swung and it was game on.
Yamba continued on from where they finished the first half, pressuring Grafton into mistakes and having by far the better of possession and territory in the second stanza.
An early try to the visitors, again off a pick and drive, set the scene for a thrilling final half hour.
It was all local derby stuff, hard, dour and physically demanding which kept the big crowd on edge throughout.
Grafton's kicking game was poor and continually gave the ball back to the Buccaneers with the result that they were forced to defend almost constantly for the final 30 minutes.
Yamba were good, had their chances, but the excellent Grafton defence turned them away time after time.
In the end, both sides would probably take a lot away from the game.
Grafton will feel that they were below par and made many mistakes, but still won.
Yamba, for their part, would feel that they did enough to just about win the game and would fancy their chances when the sides next meet.
That won't be until the final competition game at Yamba, and it's a fair bet that it will be bigger and better than this local derby.