Redmen take steps on semi-finals tightrope

By DAVE MORRISON

Rugby union

THE Grafton Jacaranda Hotel Redmen continue to walk a semi-final tight rope today when they travel north to play the struggling, but inconsistent Wollongbar Pioneers.

Grafton appear to have one foot in the door for the playoffs, lying in fourth spot eight points, or two wins, clear of a fast finishing University side with just three rounds to go.

A loss however would bring the students well within striking distance and make for a very uncomfortable final couple of weeks for the Redmen.

Consequently, Grafton coach Gary Powell, with a full-strength side at his disposal and no excuses, will be sure to have his charges primed up for a big effort today in what shapes as a crucial game.

The Pioneers have had an ordinary season after a good start with just three wins to their credit, and last week were very poor in conceding more than 70 points to University.

However, their lowly position on the table belies the undoubted potential that they possess, especially in the backline where they have a number of young, exciting backs that on their day, can be as dangerous as any in the competition.

The Wollongbar backs thrive on loose, open field situations and tend to feed off the mistakes and poor options of their opposition.

Grafton's discipline has been their strength in recent weeks and it is a credit to the side that they have improved this vital aspect of their game as the season has progressed.

With a dominant line out and scrum to provide them with plenty of first phase possession, Powell has Grafton playing very much in semi-final mode.

But it has been the Redmen defence that has really stood out in recent games, their last two outings holding Ballina and Yamba, both sides with fast backlines who play expansive Rugby, to a combined total of one try and 10 points.

With so much at stake, Grafton must surely be favoured to win however they will find the Pioneers at home, as usual, difficult rivals who will be out to atone for last week's poor showing.



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