Mustangs front-rower Lynden Murphy in action against the Grafton Ghosts.
Mustangs front-rower Lynden Murphy in action against the Grafton Ghosts. Scott Powick

Battle royale as teams collide

IT SEEMS only fitting the two teams who proved themselves vastly superior to the rest of the field should do battle in the NRRRL decider on Sunday.

The Mustangs claimed the 2011 minor premiership by the smallest of margins last month after handing the Ghosts their first defeat in almost two years.

The Ghosts avenged that loss when they beat the Mustangs 18-12 in the qualifying semi-final.

That victory ensured the Ghosts will host the grand final for the second consecutive year.

With the honours shared this season, Sunday’s showdown shapes as a classic with both sides fielding forward packs that have not given a centimetre in their past two encounters.

Murwillumbah’s big boppers are expected to try and win the physical battle against a Ghosts’ engine room that possesses a ‘hunting as a pack’ mentality.

Both sides pride themselves on defence although the Mustangs leaked seven tries in their preliminary final win over Northern United on Sunday.

Murwillumbah was exposed out wide by the Dirawongs and the Ghosts also have plenty of strike power on the edges but Mustangs coach Troy McLean has faith in his troops.

“We’ll build our game around our forward pack and try to break down the Ghosts’ defence,” he said.

“Our backs are toilers but in saying that we’ll back ourselves in attack.”

The Mustangs struggled to crack the Ghosts’ defence in the preliminary final and McLean said that had forced a re-think.

“You have to give credit to the Ghosts’ forwards and their defence in the last 40 minutes of the game,” he said.

“The Roberts’ kicking game in the wet was also spot on.

“We’ve put a few things into place to combat those issues this time around.”

While McLean was fine-tuning his tactics, Ghosts coach Col Speed was keeping it simple, declaring the grand final would be won up front and that getting over the giant Mustangs forward pack would be the key in the pursuit of back-to-back premierships.

“Everything starts from the engine room,” Speed said.

“Big Lynden Murphy in the front row and their lock forward Damien Quinn are both dangerous players. And we need to keep a close eye on their number six.”

Speed said the Ghosts would stick to the same routine they followed in the build-up to last year’s grand final success, revealing his players were full of confidence and jumping out of their skins to play.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 26 of the last 29 grand finals have been won by the home side.
  • In their last two matches against the Mustangs the Ghosts have conceded 32 points. The Mustangs have conceded 30 points.
  • The Ghosts have not been defeated at home this season.
  • Only six Mustangs players have grand final experience.
  • The last time the Mustangs won a grand final was in 2005.


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