Ghosts knocked out of finals by Murwillumbah Mustangs
MURWILLUMBAH Mustangs will face Ballina Seagulls in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final next week following a 17-10 win over Grafton Ghosts.
The Ghosts were dealt a cruel blow before the whistle blew with NRRRL winger of the year Joel Moss succumbing to a groin injury.
His impact was sorely missed by the Ghosts who struggled to fight their way through a Mustangs-dominated first half.
Ghost Ryan Farrell was at a loss for words following the match, the gutted captain-coach describing the game as "disappointing".
"I don't know mate. There's a few disappointed blokes in there," Farrell said.
"They had so much ball during that first 20-30 minutes and we managed to hold them to only one try."
Ghosts fans were furious with the first 30 minutes of the game, as the Ghosts found themselves on the wrong end of a 12-3 penalty count.
Mitch Lollback, who covered Moss' position on the left wing, was sent to the sin bin for holding down in a 33rd minute tackle, leaving the Ghosts a man short for 10 minutes.
Grafton didn't concede any points during that period, but Mustangs captain-coach Damien Quinn pointed to that period as being a turning point.
"I wasn't concerned we only scored one try in that first 30 because we knew they'd tire late in the second half," Quinn said.
"It was a bloody tough game but we showed up with the right attitude - something we didn't do last week.
"We knew we had to stick to the game plan and that's what we did."
The Ghosts mounted a strong comeback in the second half but any momentum was killed when the touch judge found a forward pass in Aaron Hartmann's 59th minute try.
Murwillumbah got a roll on from that point, with Dylan Smith's second try knocking the wind out of Grafton's sails.
A Nathan Jordan field goal in the 74th minute sealed the Mustangs' grand final spot, but Quinn said the call came a few minutes earlier.
"The boys called it earlier but we ended up conceding a penalty," Quinn said.
"We had another chance after working it back up there so we took it."
Mustangs will face a rested Ballina in the grand final next week, the same time that dished up a 36-6 mauling last week.
Quinn said that result was far from his mind, instead focussing on his own team's effort.
"If we turn up with a good attitude then I think we can win," Quinn said.
"They are a good team so it's going to be tough.
"It's good to be in the grand final and having the 18s there is a bonus. Hopefully we can get a few busloads of people coming over from Murwillumbah."
MURWILLUMBAH MUSTANGS 17 (Smith 2, Lagiloaloa tries; Quinn 3 goals, Jordan field goal) def GRAFTON GHOSTS 10 (Hartmann, Williams tries; Lennon goal) at Stan Sercombe Oval.