Ghost Troy Munro is caught between Magpies Dwayne Randall (left) and Robbie Howard during yesterday’s match at Frank McGuren Park.
Ghost Troy Munro is caught between Magpies Dwayne Randall (left) and Robbie Howard during yesterday’s match at Frank McGuren Park. Debrah Novak

Derby turns it on for NRRRL start

IT was not a crunch match, but the local derby played in brilliant sunshine at Frank McGuren Field in front of an enthusiastic crowd was the perfect way to start the NRRRL season.

Expected to win by a landslide the Ghosts were pushed all the way by a determined Lower Clarence Magpies who in the end ran out of steam going down 34-18.

With Magpies' bookends Ryan Binge and Xavier Sullivan setting the platform the visitors found themselves in the game at half-time, but handling errors and silly penalties hurt them in the end.

Lower drew first blood after a Todd Cameron 40/20 gave his side ideal field position. From the ensuing scrum quick hands allowed winger Robbie Howard to dive over in the corner.

Moments later a critical call by the referee involving a Magpies knock-on saw the Ghosts backline click into gear for Carson Galloway to score out wide.

Ryan Danvers, who took an early knock to the head, continued to cause headaches up the middle of the park offloading almost at will.

Centre Khan Williams cashed in after Danvers provided a peach of a ball for his teammate to score next to the uprights.

From the kick-off Magpies captain Xavier Sullivan put a hit on a Ghosts player returning the ball which almost shook the grandstand. The ball was coughed up and all of a sudden Lower was back in the game, thanks to a Tom Martin four-pointer.

With only minutes remaining before the break an inside ball 15 metres out from the Magpies' try line gifted Aaron Hartmann a try under the black dot. Danvers made no mistake with the conversion to give the home side a handy 16-10 buffer.

With half-time on the players' minds a gem of a cut-out pass by Todd Cameron caught the Ghosts' defence napping and Dan Galloway crashed over in the corner.

The Ghosts opened their

account in the second half with a magnificent try involving six sets of hands before captain Ryan Farrell lunged over the line.

Another error from the Ghosts off the kick-off invited the Magpies back into the game and they didn't have to be asked twice.

From the scrum Dan Randall chanced his arm with a neat chip-kick. The class centre received a ‘room-service' bounce to score in the corner.

Further tries to Sam Hartmann and Farrell landed the killer blow as the Magpies players were waiting for the full-time siren.

Grafton Ghosts coach Col Speed was happy to come away with the two points in what he described as a tough game to start the season.

“I always new the Magpies would come out hard and play structured footy,” he said.

“You have to remember they have some quality players. Ryan Binge is one of the best props in the group.

“Ryan (Farrell) took a head knock early on which disrupted our play but we regrouped mentally and didn't let the scoreboard at half-time faze us.

“I thought Tom Freebody was good for us today, and Mitch (Lollback) and Sam (Hartmann) are starting to find their feet.”

Speed added he was far from happy with the referee's decision not to send a Magpies player from the field after an alleged dangerous tackle on Khan Williams late in the second half: “I don't know why they (Magpies) weren't a man down. A spear tackle for me is a send-off offence.”

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