Dominant Grafton sends ominous message ahead of finals
RUGBY LEAGUE: Grafton Ghosts have sent a clear message to next weekend's qualifying final opponents Coffs Harbour Comets with a dominant 46-12 display at home against the Woologoolga Seahorses.
Grafton had their foot on the throttle from the opening whistle with the home side making inroads into the Seahorses' defence in the first set.
Less than five minutes had passed when the Ghosts turned the scoreboard over for the first time through winger Mitch Gorman. Sweeping play down the lefthand side saw Mitch Lollback create the extra man, and the Ghosts put it through the hands to score.
It did not take long before the Ghosts added to their total again through an almost identical play, this time with Lollback holding possession and stepping his way through the line to score.
Woolgoolga five-eighth Anthony Donovan gave an impassioned speech to his troops behind the tryline after the second try, and it seemed to be working for the visitors before a cheap turnover of possession on the halfway line gave the Ghosts another chance to stretch the lead.
Seemingly scoring at will, the Ghosts looked in under the posts through front rower Mitch Wicks before referee Nathan Grace pulled the play back for an obstruction penalty.
But the tenacious Ghosts would not be denied for long, as crafty dummy-half Jayden Connors kicked to an unmarked Gorman, who touched down in the corner for his second of the half.
Woolgoolga mounted a fightback midway through the opening stanza with consecutive sets on the Ghosts' line. The posSession continued to mount on the home side, with forward Jonathan Lakotvi crashing across the line.
But that appeared to be all she wrote for the visitors in the first half as the Ghosts continued to muscle up in defence.
Gorman was able to bag a hat-trick before the main break as he spotted a couple of tired forwards around the marker area. Gorman scooted out of dummy half on the halfway line before breaking through the defence and out-sprinting the cover defence to the try line.
Khan Williams also got his name on the scoring sheet before the half was over while Wicks, still smarting from his earlier disallowal, was not going to be denied a second time as he carried three defenders across the line from five metres out.
The Seahorses came out from the long break with a renewed energy, settling in for back and forth action with their hosts.
Both sides struggled to gain the ascendancy in the early stages of the second stanza, with the work rate off the ball showing through.
In what was a tough sight for Ghosts' fans one week out from finals football, lethal winger Gorman was taken from the field after reeling away from a tackle attempt. It is understood Gorman lost a tooth, and was taken for medical attention.
Woolgoolga were the first to register points after the half-time break against the run of play, as Joel Collinson picked up a Ghosts' dropped ball to run the length of the field.
Undeterred by the four pointer, the Ghosts settled back into their grinding style, not willing to give an inch to the visiting Seahorses outfit.
Lollback added another two solo efforts to his tally for the afternoon and Dylan Collett crossed for his first as the Ghosts shut out a dominant performance at Frank McGuren Field.
The Ghosts will now face Coffs Harbour Comets at home in next weekend's qualifying final.
Across the river at McKittrick Park, the South Grafton Rebels defeated the Bellingen-Dorrigo Magpies 28-18 to finish the 2016 regular season in form.
GRAFTON Ghosts were able to book all three grades into the Group 2 finals series after their Reserve Grade outfit secured fifth place on the ladder with a dying seconds 34-32 victory over Woolgoolga.
SCORELINE: Grafton Ghosts 46 (Mitch Gorman 3, Mitch Lollback 3, Khan Williams, Mitch Wicks, Dylan Collett tries Jay Olsen 2, Jayden Connors 2, Dan Lollback goals) def Woolgoolga Seahorses 12 (Jonathan Lakotvi, Joel Colinson tries; Anthony Donovan 2 goals).