Ghosts ‘schooled’ by Rebels at McKittrick Park
RUGBY LEAGUE: From the moment Grant 'Stumpy' Stevens drove his shoulder through Ryan Binge's midriff on the first hit up of the Battle for the River those at McKittrick Park knew a tough local derby was on.
It was a warning call sounded by one of the great workhorses of Group 2 that the South Grafton Rebels were not going to lie down in front of an ominous Ghosts' forward pack.
The hit set the tone for the derby - it was going to be a slugfest with neither side willing to give an inch on the field to their opposition.
It almost came undone only three tackles later when an impromptu play by Ghosts' fill-in five-eighth Blake Winmill saw Dylan Collett over in the corner.
But the Rebels knuckled down in defence again and forced their way back into the match up through their powerhouse forward pack.
"It was good, it was a tough encounter to start with," Rebels' enforcer Stevens said. "We came up against a pretty tough forward pack but our forwards, we stuck it to them in the first 20 minutes and we came out on top after they scored a pretty lucky try in the first set of the game.
"We got back into the grind and got on top. I can't fault our forwards and our backs finished well.
"We talked about (the Ghosts' forward pack) all week and how we were going to go about it. We have been doing it for the last two weeks and we tried to work as a pack and dominate as a pack and I think we did that."
It was off the back of their big men's go forward that the Rebels were able to spread the ball through their experienced halves to their finishers on the flanks.
Grafton Ghosts' captain-coach Ben McLennan said his side were "schooled" on the McKittrick Park surface and praised the Rebels for the tough encounter.
"It was a typical local derby, it was tough footy and credit to the Rebels, they schooled us," McLennan said.
"They played some really good footy, big Xavier Sullivan going forward and drawing in four or five defenders and then fellas like Stumpy get on the back of him and they are pretty hard to stop.
"It was a deadset local derby, that is what we live for, that is what we play footy for. It was hard, we had three of our very best players out which didn't make it easy but we will work through it."
It was a day for big returns to the football field with Rebels' forward Dwayne Duke returning with a four-pointer while Ghosts' pair Mitch Lollback and Blake Winmill were tireless for the visitors with Lollback bagging his own try at full stretch.
SOUTH GRAFTON REBELS 28 (Jade Duroux 2, Hughie Stanley, Dwayne Duke, Nick McGrady; Jade Duroux 4 goals) def GRAFTON GHOSTS 14 (Dylan Collett, Mitch Lollback, Jake Barnett; Jay Olsen goal).
Who will win the 2016 Group 2 Rugby League First Grade Premiership?
This poll ended on 15 August 2016.
South Grafton Rebels
Coffs Harbour Comets
Nambucca Heads Roosters
Macksville Sea Eagles
Orara Valley Axemen
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
GROUP 2 RUGBY LEAGUE RESULTS
South Grafton Rebels 28 def Grafton Ghosts 14
Orara Valley Axemen 28 def Woolgoolga Seahorses 20
Coffs Harbour Comets 23 def Macksville Sea Eagles 22
Sawtell Panthers 40 def Bellingen Dorrigo Magpies 20
South Grafton Rebels 16 def Grafton Ghosts 10
Orara Valley Axemen 14 def Woolgoolga Seahorses 10
Macksville Sea Eagles 28 def Coffs Harbour Comets 10
Sawtell Panthers 14 def Bellingen Dorrigo Magpies 12
South Grafton Rebels 24 def Grafton Ghosts 22
Sawtell Panthers 38 def Bellingen Dorrigo Magpies 12