Ghosts send warning to Murwillumbah
THE Grafton Ghosts gave minor premiers Murwillumbah a warning of what awaits them next week with a resounding 24-8 victory against the Byron Bay Red Devils in the qualifying final at Frank McGuren Park yesterday.
The Ghosts forward pack was brutal and their backs sublime in an extraordinary defensive effort against Byron Bay, a side whose backline is peppered with strike weapons known for their attacking flair.
After leaping to a 10-4 lead at half-time courtesy of tries to Joel Moss and Mitchell Lollback, the Ghosts suffered a minor defensive lapse that allowed Byron hooker Cale Rowston to cross for a try to close the gap to 10-8.
The chink in the Ghosts' defensive armour was soon patched over and raid after raid by the Devils' backline was shut down by crushing defence.
"It was a really tough game and to hold Byron to only eight points is a massive defensive effort because they have some firepower in their backline out wide," Ghosts captain Ryan Farrell said.
While their skilled backline allowed the Devils to make several long-range breaks in the second half, they were unable to capitalise as Grafton's back three of Mitchell Lollback, Daniel Lollback and Joel Moss held firm. At one point, Devils centre Clarence Kelly seemed certain to score but Grafton's Aaron Taylor was able to rake the ball free before taking off in the other direction.
"Our scramble defence is something we really pride ourselves on, that's for sure, making sure we get back there and do all the little thing is something we've talked about at training and it was good to see us do it," Farrell said.
Tries to Ryan Danvers and Josh Donohoe, as well as a late penalty goal to Danvers effectively sealed the result.
The Devils' misery was compounded by several failed attempts at a short kick-off, and even a penalty for being offside.
While ecstatic with his side's victory, Farrell knows that the minor premiers will be waiting on Sunday and that beating them at home will be a huge task, but he is confident that his resurgent Ghosts are up to the task.
"They beat us by eight points last time we played them and we are a much better team now than we were then. It'll be tough, but we're looking forward to the challenge," he said.
The only negative to come out of yesterday's game for the Ghosts was an ankle injury to key back Sam Hartmann.
Hartmann will have scans during the week to determine if his ankle is broken.
Grafton Ghosts - 24
Byron Bay Red Devils - 8