CURTAIN CALL: Redmen season ends in tough defeat
RUGBY UNION: A second half meltdown by the McKimms Grafton Redmen gifted the Ballina Seahorses an emphatic 64-26 victory at the Hay St Rugby Fields on Saturday.
It was a cruel blow after the home side played a near-perfect first half.
Grafton looked in control for the first 20 minutes before a dangerous Ballina side found its groove.
With the sides locked at 21-all at the break, the half-time talk by Redmen coaching staff focused on maintaining pressure and limiting mistakes.
But as they had done for most of the season, Grafton failed to match their opposition, with fatigue appearing to be a major factor.
The Seahorses' second half onslaught realised 43 points, with the outside backs cashing in on a depleted Redmen outfit.
Two yellow cards and a red card to hooker Zac Mason-Gale for repeated infringements saw the visitors grab the momentum and they never handed it back.
Grafton looked good out wide, with centres Keaton Ingram and Luke Worthing, along with winger Ryan Spies, punching holes in the Seahorses defence.
Frustrated Redmen coach Craig Howe was blunt with his assessment of the game.
"I thought we started reasonably well in the second half but the bloke who was refereeing tends to flip a little bit and unfortunately we got the flip at the wrong time,” Howe said.
"We had a player receive a second yellow card from using his chest, not a shoulder - to get a red card for that is frustrating. I thought both teams were infringing at the breakdown, they got four warnings and we had a guy red-carded.
"Their scrum was also a bit of a concern. Their front-rower kept boring in and standing up and never got penalised for it.
"On the positive side we had a yellow card in the first half and put points on them. Again it's frustrating when 50-50 calls don't go your way.”
It's been a frustrating season for the Redmen overall. Injuries to key players at crucial times and a lack of depth have not helped their campaign.
At times they have proved they can match it with some of the better sides in the competition, however inconsistent performances have been their Achilles heel.
The win sees Ballina secure second spot on the ladder and into the play-offs next week.
In earlier games Grafton seconds went down 57-5, President's Cup fell 40-12 and the women were no match for a committed Ballina side.