South turns up the heat
By Tony White
Before a season record 600plus crowd, South Grafton Rebels 90th anniversary celebrations ended on a high when they beat Grafton Ghosts 50-24 at McKittrick Park yesterday.
Spurred on by the euphoria of the occasion, the Rebels began like rocket with five unanswered tries to lead 22-nil after 11 minutes and 26-nil after 17 minutes.
South went to the break ahead 36-6 and at that stage of the match it looked like being a complete massacre, but to cellar dwellers Grafton's credit, they finally started to tackle and compete in the second half, albeit the Rebels intensity slackened and mistakes crept into their game.
The turnaround was so dramatic, which disappointed Rebels coach captain-coach Stevie Kirby and loyal fans, Grafton won the second half 18-14.
Regardless, it was the Rebels' day.
"Gee, that was a good crowd. It was great seeing all the past players," man of the match Andy Bell said.
"It's great to get a win back on the board."
The 27-year-old, born in Sydney, but raised in Tabulam, only joined South Grafton this year after playing his earlier football with Moore Park in the South Sydney Juniors competition.
Bell played five-eighth and half during the match but admitted his preferred position is hooker.
"I prefer hooker. I played hooker with Moore Park," Bell said.
Man mountain Xavier Sullivan, who had a huge impact on the game scoring two trys and unloading the ball a la Arthur Beetson, said playing before such a big crowd was awesome.
"We had a real good first half. There was a lot of spirit and pride in the side," he said.
"And it was a real buzz running out in front of the big crowd.
"Unfortunately the second half was a bit stop-start."
Sullivan figured in one of the best tries of the match when, in the 8th minute, he burst through the defence and galloped like a runaway rhino to sprint 55 metres and touch down under the posts. The crowd was delirious.
South conceded 11 penalties, six in the second stanza which disrupted side's earlier rhythm.
Grafton coach Matt McKee said his players could hold their heads reasonably high.
"We were down 22-nil after 11 minutes, scary stuff," McKee said. "Our blokes dug deep and came back to win the second half which was very pleasing.
"I think that's the most points we've scored since beating Lower Clarence in first game of the season."
Sullivan, centre Paul Donovan, winger Dave Purcell and fullback Walter Donnelly scored doubles.
South prop Scott Laurie was best on the park before being stretchered off with a leg injury in the 42nd minute and didn't return.
For Grafton, captain Phil Warby scored two tries and was in the thick of the action all day. Jason Vidler, Matt Michael, Shane Denshire and never say die lock Josh Ryder, who deserves a VC for his tireless efforts this season, had good games for the visitors.