Ghosts two time champions in Reserve Grade
STRENGTH PREVAILS: Jay Olsen tries to shrug off the Sawtell Panthers in the reserve grade grand final.
THE Grafton Ghosts have won back to back reserve grade premierships after their side toughed out a 28-20 victory over minor premiers Sawtell Panthers.
The grand final was off to a flying start with Grafton clawing their way across the try line in the opening set. A wayward last play kick found its way into the hands of winger Zac Sullivan who broke through the scrambling Sawtell defence to get the scoreboard ticking over.
All aspects of Grafton's early ascendancy were stripped away in a split second when lock forward Jesse Bamford was taken out of the contest by a sickening high shot from a Sawtell forward.
With the Ghosts' lock motionless on the ground and emergency services called to assist, both sides remained on the sidelines looking on.
Panthers' halfback David McCormack found a weakness on the Ghosts' defensive flank, punching his way through the line off a second-phase play to put his side into the lead.
Both sides suffered through the middle stages of the opening stanza, with neither side able to hold on to possession for long enough to mount pressure on the opposition.
Panthers discipline became a factor late in the first half with cheap penalties giving the Ghosts good field position. The field position led to a crash over try to Ghosts' second rower Josh Brown.
But with two minutes remaining before the break in play, Panthers interchange forward Merv Tighe carried three defenders across the line to bring the Sawtell side back into the lead heading into the break.
Ghosts' coach Warwick Brown put the fire into his players in his half time speech, with the boys in blue returning to the field with a new intensity.
Within 15 minutes of the second half the Ghosts had piled on three tries, with centre Dane Partridge crashing across and interchange player Nic Bell also bagging himself a try.
A major resurgence was on the cards for the Sawtell side with interchange forward Merv Tighe taking matters into his own hands. The big forward crashed across for one of his own before pulling out a monster tackle on Ghosts' fullback Kieren Stewart who was bringing the ball back for a kick return.
From the ensuing play the Panthers crossed the line through winger Marshall Davis but were not good enough to reduce the deficit.