Ghosts claim bragging rights
THE Grafton Ghosts have sent out a dangerous calling card for its Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League rivals after claiming an aggressive and passionate local league derby with a 21-point second-half display at McKittrick Park yesterday.
Against a pumped up and physical Grafton Rhinos side, the Ghosts players proved there was nothing they could not do, or could not withstand, as they took control midway through the second half to post a 33-20 score line.
Apart from a messy opening 20 minutes, it was nearly the perfect game for the Ghosts which scored five tries and booted five conversions, one penalty and, just for good measure, one field goal.
“We're not always a boring and bland side,” Ghosts first grade coach Col Speed joked.
“It was a slow start, I just think we didn't show a lot of patience.
“We were beating ourselves pretty well in the first half but I was always confident we could turn that around.”
However, to focus solely on an impressive Ghost performance would be a discredit to a never-say-die Rhinos squad which snatched the lead three times before succumbing as the sun set on the second stanza of the derby.
“Last 20 minutes we pretty much played with 13 men ... we had an injured bench,” Rhinos captain/coach Xavier Sullivan said.
“Towards the end we were both (sides) out on our feet.
“It was very physical.”
Indeed, the hard tackles and bone-crunching encounters were what had the fans on their feet for most of the game, especially in the opening five minutes as both packs sought to dominate the game.
It was not surprising then, the opening try was a by-product of an over-zealous infringement.
Deep in enemy territory, the ball found its way into Aaron Hartmann's hands, who drew the defence before sending the ball out to Carson Galloway who scored in the corner.
The Rhinos then laid siege to the Ghosts line, finally rewarded out wide with the impressive Dwayne Duke adding to his equally impressive early season tally of tries.
The two sides then slugged it out, hit for hit, for supremacy in the first half.
Todd Cameron barged over in the corner. Rhinos 12-6.
Khan Williams strolled through a weak Rhinos defence. 12-12.
Ray Mercy feeding older brother Ken, who beat two defenders to score in the corner. Rhinos 16-12.
One would have thought it would have gone on this way for the full 80 minutes had it not been for the half-time siren.
The second half picked up right where the first had left off (Dan Roberts over after a charge down, Ray Mercy into the corner) but the more the game wore on, the more it started to slip through the Rhinos fingers.
Ghosts captain Ryan Farrell seized on the opportunity to deliver a deft chip over the Rhinos defence for Williams to chase. Unable to grasp the ball, Williams took two touches with his feet before crossing for his second of the day.
The Rhinos players never recovered, and although willing to fight till the bitter end, a Hartmann try out wide broke their hearts before an Aaron Taylor laser-like boot and a Dan Roberts opportunist field goal rubbed salt into an already sore wound.
FIRST GRADE: GRAFTON GHOSTS 33 (Khan Williams 2, Aaron Hartmann, Carson Galloway, Dan Roberts tries; Aaron Taylor 6 conversions; Dan Roberts field goal) d GRAFTON RHINOS 20 (Dwayne Duke, Todd Cameron, Ken Mercy, Ray Mercy tries; Luke Worthing 2 conversions)
RESERVE GRADE: GRAFTON GHOSTS 28 (Ben Ellis, Luke McKenna, Jesse Bamford, Travis Daley 2; Chris Adamson 4) d GRAFTON RHINOS 20 (Josh Nagle, Damien Howard, Regan Burley, Mick Wade tries; Joe Gordon 2 conversions)
Under-I8s: GRAFTON RHINOS 18(Aaron Martin,2, Josh Harris tries; Aaron Martin, Josh Harris 2 conversions) d GRAFTON GHOSTS 16 (Oral Monaghan, Kyle Hancock, Nick Bell tries; Oral Monaghan 2 conversions)