KINGS OF THE CLARENCE: Rebels clinch premiership over Ghosts
RUGBY LEAGUE: THEY have done it all over again. The Rebels have gone back to back at McKittrick Park against a valiant Grafton Ghosts side.
The Rebels ran in four tries to three but a perfect day with the boot from winger Jade Duroux made a big difference as the home side ran out 26-12 victors.
"I am just overwhelmed with emotion," a teary Rebels' coach Ron Gordon said after the hooter.
"I cried before the game when one of my best mates Ben Woods was ruled out through injury. It broke my heart to see his little kids dressed up, but for the boys to go out there and win I am just flooded with emotion.
"The boys just lifted when we needed them to."
With Woods ruled out with a leg injury before the clash, Karl Woodley took the field in the starting line-up and never looked out of place.
It was a gruelling opening twenty minutes of the local derby clash with both sides forced to defend their own tryline for multiple sets of six.
The Ghosts were the first side to be asked questions of as the Rebels' front rowers lined up for continuous hit ups inside the Ghosts twenty metre zone. Repeat set after repeat set the Ghosts' refused to give up their tryline.
A let up knock-on and relieving penalty saw the Ghosts walk the ball up field and set up camp in the Rebels twenty but again the defensive line was impenetrable.
As both sides exchanged possession of the football and most of the running moved to the middle of the park, a four man melee broke out which cleared enough open space for Mitch Lollback to show off his skills.
The fullback was the first to register points on the scoreboard, making a 70 metre break down the right touchline before standing up opposite number Kieren Stewart to score in the corner.
The Ghosts were full of running after the Lollback try and continued to press the ascendancy against their hosts.
A classy chip and chase effort from Ghosts' half Jake Frame found its way to winger Mitch Gorman who found his partner in crime Dylan Collett with an inside ball to extend the Ghosts early lead.
But the home side were not going to take a beating lying down and they quickly got themselves back within striking distance after Oral Monaghan snatched a Jayden Connors long ball out of mid-air to slide across untouched.
As the crowd ebbed and flowed against each other the Rebels finally found the lead for the first time as verteran Hughie Stanley carved his way through the Ghosts defence before offloading to Kieren Stewart who crashed across.
The two sides headed to half time sheds split only by the goal kicking of Jade Duroux, but it was a different story when the sides returned.
Within seven minutes of the game resuming the Rebels had already split the Ghosts open twice to take a commanding lead on the scoreboard.
Tom McGrady was the first to score for the home side, blowing the Ghosts off the park with an 80 metre breakaway try.
It was then his halfback Theeran Pearson's turn to register on the scoreboard as a razzle dazzle play by the Rebels opened up the Ghosts left edge defence before the ball shifted through five sets of hands to find the half in under the posts.
With the advantage on the scoreboard the Rebels began their customary grind out of their opponents using the strength of their forward pack up the middle.
Karl Woodley, Xavier Sullivan and Grant Stevens continued to get into the tough action with the Ghosts front rowers refusing to give an inch despite the extra efforts of Josh Brown and Ryan Binge.
The Rebels were given a straightforward penalty down their end with a chance to seal off the victory and Jade Duroux stepped up to the mark to maintain his perfect kicking record.
A strong solo effort from Ghosts' winger Mitch Gorman was a consolation effort for the Ghosts in the dying stages of the match but it was academic, with the Rebels running out 14-point victors.
It was a history making moment for the Rebels who have now become the first South Grafton side to win back-to-back premierships.
Rebels five-eighth Hughie Stanley was voted player of the grand final and the classy half put it down to the support of God and his family.
"This is just an unbelievable feeling," Stanley said.
"Just the way we have had those three or four years of turning the whole club around. Not just the club but turning the whole community around."
South Grafton Rebels 26 (Oral Monaghan, Kieren Stewart, Tom McGrady, Theeran Pearson; Jade Duroux 5 goals) def Grafton Ghosts 12 (Mitch Lollback, Dylan Collett, Mitch Gorman tries)