Redmen semi spot in doubt
By DAVE MORRISON
IT was a game that they never really got into, suddenly had the lead midway through the second half, before two late tries killed the Grafton Redmen's dreams of an easy passage into the semi-finals when beaten 27-19 by University at Lismore on Saturday.
With Grafton needing just two bonus points to secure a semi spot from a fast finishing Student side, they looked to have all but sealed that spot when leading 19-14 with 20 minutes to go.
But two tries inside the final 10 minutes, changed all that with the final, heartbreaking try, University's fourth for the game, effectively making a two-point turnaround on the competition table and keeping the students alive, while for Grafton, their task now being to beat Ballina at Ballina next week.
In reality, despite the closeness of the score, University were the better side on the day, their forwards instrumental in setting up their win.
Grafton made just three forays into the opposing quarter all day, and while they scored tries each time, you cannot expect to win many games on such a statistic.
University probably had 60 per cent of the ball, and more territory than that, and that ball Grafton secured was generally given back through poor kicking and some critical mistakes.
The Students spent almost all of the first half in Grafton's territory, and it was a credit to some superb Redmen defence that they held them to 7-7 at the break.
University spent plenty of time camped on Grafton's line and their effort to hold them to just the one try, scored early on, was tremendous and was a real positive that they can take away from the game.
Centre Scott Lloyd's ability to read the attack was a feature and he was one of Grafton's best.
University scored soon after the break to lead 14-7 but Grafton replied with their best passage of play, driving ahead midfield with the ball in hand rather than on the boot.
The reward was two tries, first to winger Sam Gerrard at the end of good finish by the Grafton backs, and then by Rob Brown finishing off a rolling maul to put Grafton ahead 19-14.
The momentum seemed to be turning the Redmen's favour, but the Student pack came back well, and their backs capitalised on more poor Grafton kicking that gave them counter-attacking opportunities, which were turned to their advantage.
It was a game that Grafton will rue, as it was certainly there for the taking.