Ghosts take Orara for a ride
THE Grafton Ghosts dusted away the post-season cobwebs with an entertaining 44-22 trial victory over the Orara Valley Axemen at Frank McGuren Field on Saturday.
With the season still more than a month away, the Ghosts proved they will again be a force in the Northern Rivers Rugby League competition, charging to a 38-point lead at the final break before a host of late substitutions disrupted their momentum and allowed Orara to score some consolation points.
The match, played over four quarters, was watched by a good sized home crowd who did not have to wait long before they were on their feet cheering the Ghosts' first try.
Group Two grand finalists Orara knocked on from the kick-off and the Ghosts' big men moved the ball towards the Orara line before it was sent wide through a number of hands to Khan Williams who crossed.
Orara did score early, but from there is was mostly one-way traffic as the Ghosts showed glimpses of the form that carried them to a grand final berth in 2008.
If the Orara players had expected a 'friendly' trial match, they were sorely disappointed with the Ghosts' defence hitting hard.
New recruit Aaron Taylor, Ben McLennan, Phil Warby, Paul Donovan (2), Andy Lollback and under-18 squad member Kyle Hancock all scored tries, with Taylor (4), Aaron Hartmann and Rhys Walters slotting conversions.
Making his debut for the first grade team, Hancock had the crowd in full voice as he tore down the wing to complete another well-worked Ghosts play.
“I just got it and ran,” Hancock said.
“It (the game) was a good test, but I was stuffed at the end.”
With the Ghosts leading 44-6 at the start of the last quarter, coach Col Speed decided to ring the changes and test his squad's depth.
Dropped balls, missed tackles and poor positional play allowed Orara to run in 16 unanswered points and add some credibility to the score line.
Speed said he was 'impressed' with his squad's display and put the poor last quarter down to the number of late substitutions.
“It was a good opportunity to look at the squad, particularly the younger players,” he said.
“With a big lead and lots of chopping and changing ... our completion rate dropped away.
“Overall it was a good sign of our depth ... and we're looking good.”
GRAFTON GHOSTS 44 (Paul Donovan 2, Khan Williams, Aaron Taylor, Ben McLennan, Phil Warby, Kyle Hancock, Andy Lollback tries; Aaron Taylor 4, Aaron Hartmann, Rhys Walters goals) d ORARA AXEMEN 22 (Dan Tempest, Dave Mitchell, Sam Gilchrist, Aaron Webb tries; Aaron Webb 2, Dave Mitchell goals).