IN DEPTH: Ill discipline costs Grafton Ghosts at home
RUGBY LEAGUE: Ill-discipline marred the contest between Group 2 heavyweights Coffs Harbour Comets and Grafton Ghosts with a total six men sin binned including four at the one time after punches were thrown in a 15th minute melee.
Despite cruising to a 22-point lead at the half-time break the Ghosts were in all sort strife when the Comets mounted a second half fight back at Frank McGuren Field.
The Comets scored two in quick succession through second rower Wayne Weribone including a speculative decision after Dylan Collett appeared to have grounded the ball in his in-goal only for it to bobble out to the Comets' number 11.
In the dying minutes Coffs Harbour five-eighth Corey McGrady dived across in the corner to level the scores before Nathan Curry continued his perfect kicking record to seal the win just before the final hooter.
Ghosts' captain-coach Ben McLennan was disappointed in his side's ill-discipline and said it was "back to the drawing board" for the Ghosts.
"We are a lot better side than that," McLennan said. "We showed in the first half what we can do, it was just ill-discipline and things like that which took us out of the game in the second half.
"It is just frustrating that we do so well in training - we trained unbelievably well on Thursday and then we come out here and let it go in the second half.
"We just fell into their sh*t and we were worrying too much about what the referees were doing rather than what we were doing."
Despite the early brawl which saw Comets' big bopper Mick Spence laid flat by a Ryan Binge right hook and both men binned accordingly, McLennan believed there was no extra feeling in the game.
"We always have a good grudge match against Coffs, but its the first game of the year, everyone was excited and ready to rip in, and a few were flying high a bit of the time," McLennan said.
"I said to the boys if we stopped worrying about everyone else, stopped worrying about the ref and the other team, and start focussing on our structures and what we have in place then there is no doubt we can win every game. We just need to worry about ourselves.
"But all credit to Coffs Harbour and Kerrod and the boys, they have a good side there and they will go far this season."
For Kerrod Selmes the first round win against the Ghosts marked his first match and first win as a coach of a side and the smile could not be wiped from his face in the dressing sheds after the game.
"It is good to get a start to the season like that and win the Clem Rankin Memorial," Selmes said.
"At half time I knew I had all confidence in my boys that if we held the ball, I don't think we had a shot near their line in the first half, so I knew if we could hold the ball we were in with a chance.
"Everyone knew that they were doing wrong, and I just told them to have a look at themselves and they all came out ready for the second half. And while we didn't start that second half like I wanted to we came good in the end."
Selmes praised his opposition for their efforts in the first half and labelled the Grafton side the competition's "bench mark".
"We always knew to expect a bit of feeling out there, it is always like that with the Ghosties," he said. "I thought they were going to be the bench mark of the competition and they proved that they were in the first half.
"I am very pleased, not many people will come here to get a win so we can walk away with our heads high."
Ghosts returning duo Mitch Lollback and Matt Muller both put in solid efforts for their club and will both be better fitness wise after having this clash.
COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 24 (Weribone 2, Curry, McGrady tries; Curry 4 goals) defeated GRAFTON GHOSTS 22 (Collett 2, Gorman, Lollback tries; Monckton 3 goals).
Other matches: Macksville 44 def Nambucca Heads 18, Woolgoolga 36 Bellingen 18, Orara Valley v Sawtell (postponed), South Grafton Rebels bye.
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.