Redmen finals hopes fading
GRAFTON Redmen's chances of making the semi-finals suffered another blow at the weekend when they were defeated by Lismore 29-13.
Grafton, who are currently sitting in seventh place on the Far North Coast rugby ladder, need to string a few wins together if they wish to feature in the play-offs in late August.
After finding form against Wollongbar-Alstonville in Round 4, the Redmen have struggled to compete with the more-fancied sides in the competition.
And one of the main factors could be their mounting injury toll.
Against Lismore the Redmen were without both their regular centres and hooker Justin Travers who succumbed to a hand injury late in the week.
“Dukey (Dwayne Duke) and my brother Scott were both out through injury and our hooker J T (Justin Travers) was a late withdrawal,” Grafton captain-coach Brad Lloyd said.
“Justin put a saw through his finger at work and Scott has a broken hand and won't be back for a few weeks.
“Dwayne injured his elbow against Lennox but hopefully he'll be right to play Ballina at home this weekend.”
To add further disruptions, flying Winger Billy Hickson pulled out on the eve of the game against Lismore.
It's been a frustrating couple of weeks for Lloyd who has been forced to make changes in key positions each week. But the good news is the Redmen can still make the four.
Lennox lead the competition on 24 points followed by Ballina 21, Lismore 16 and Wollongbar nine. Grafton sit one point behind on eight points.
“We have a lot of young blokes who are still learning the game,” Lloyd said.
“We just need to learn to not panic and push the pass like we did against Lismore.
“For instance against Lismore on Saturday we were attacking their line and threw an intercept pass and they sprinted 90 metres to score.”
Usually competitive at the set pieces, Lloyd said his forwards struggled in the line-out which in the end starved his side of valuable possession.
“They killed us in the line-outs,” he said.
“And it's something we'll need to work on leading up to the game against Ballina.
“But on a positive note we went a lot better in the second half and I thought Huan Collie at five-eighth adapted his game and continues to improve.”