Ballina book finals ticket
BALLINA survived a fast-finishing Northern United to book a spot in the 2010 NRRRL grand final with a 36-30 victory at their Kingsford Smith Park home yesterday.
The Seagulls were polished for 65 minutes to lead 36-10 deep into the second-half but when United finally found a spark it took off like wildfire.
Five tries – including three for David Briggs – in the final quarter of the match finally brought the Dirawongs fans into the contest but they fell one miracle play short of what would have been a remarkable victory.
The Seagulls put together a clinical first hour of the game and would have had the supporters crying into their beers had they surrendered the win, but held on to earn another crack at the NRRRL’s mission impossible – a trip to Grafton to take on the undefeated Ghosts in next Sunday’s decider.
The Seagulls failed 34-6 at the same task just eight days ago but captain Ben Crawford is keen that his men can turn that result around.
“We will make better decisions this time around – Nobby (coach Brian Battese) will come up with a game plan and we will just head down there and try and stick to that,” he said.
But even Crawford knows that the best game plan might not be enough against a red-hot Ghosts outfit which has won all 17 matches of 2010.
“We’ve got nothing to lose so I guess that will be in our favour,” he said.
Crawford’s partner in the halves, Andrew Battese, had a pearler against United – his darts from dummy-half igniting his side and the crowd at crucial times.
Back-rower Robbie Miles was similarly outstanding in his return to the starting side while the right-edge combination of Abe Crawford and Ed Killingbeck took a power of stopping.
The Seagulls were in cruise control for the first hour with United barely firing a shot, but Willie Hammond’s darts eventually ignited them and when Burwood Robinson started getting his hands on the ball things began to happen.
As usual Briggs’ tries defied belief – chips, grubbers, and steps that left players grabbing at thin air. And big Les Roberts was the constant that kept the Dirawongs rolling forward.
But the six-point deficit left a sour taste in the mouth of coach Chris Binge who was keen to get to the decider and give Ghosts something to think about.
“We saved one of our worst performances for last – we just couldn’t find a rhythm in that first-half,” he said.
“After what we did in the final 20 I reckon Grafton will beat Ballina and beat them comfortably.
“The Ghosts are best against a structured team and that is Ballina to a tee.”
Ballina 36 (Miles 2, A Crawford 2, Battese, Montgomery tries; Battese 6 goals) Northern United 30 (Briggs 3, Hammond, L Roberts, S Roberts tries; Bell 3 goals)