Grafton fullback Kyle Hancock was first to touch down for the Redmen in their 31-12 loss to Port Macquarie
Grafton fullback Kyle Hancock was first to touch down for the Redmen in their 31-12 loss to Port Macquarie Gary Nichols

RUGBY UNION: Redmen give Pirates scare at home

RUGBY UNION: The Jacaranda Hotel Grafton Redmen almost turned a Brothers Grimm production into a fairytale when they gave last year's grand finalists Port Pirates an almighty fright at Stuart's Park Port Macquarie on Saturday.

In a tense and gripping affair the game hung in the balance with 15-minutes left on the clock until Port powered home with three late tries to record a 31-12 victory.

Grafton were at fever pitch from the outset, meeting their opponents at the advantage line and upsetting their rhythm.

And while Grafton didn't claim the ultimate spoils there was plenty to like about their performance.

Grafton jumped to an early 5-0 lead after fullback and captain Kyle Hancock sliced through the Pirates defence before regathering a perfectly weighted chip-kick to score out wide.

Midway through the first-half Grafton were in again when winger Sam Connor found himself in space to score under the uprights.

However, a mistake by the Redmen on the stoke of halftime invited the home side back into the contest leaving Grafton going to the break with a slender 12-10 lead.

In the second half Pirates refused to buckle under mounting pressure from Grafton's defence and capitalized on a growing Redmen error rate to run in three unanswered tries.

Despite their poor second-half performance Redmen captain Kyle Hancock believes his side can only improve with a few more games under their belt.

"The word will go out now about our performance and I'm sure there will be some worried sides," Hancock said after the game.

"We can only improve from here. We lacked a bit of match fitness which didn't help.

"Our plan was to bash them early and put them off their game and we executed it perfectly in the first half. We didn't stick to the game plan in the second half and lost our cohesion and direction."

Pirates' coach Stewart Robertson said his side's fitness was a telling factor but admitted turnovers at the breakdown was a major concern.

"In the end I think our fitness held up better but our ball security was very poor," Robertson said.

"I thought we overcame a number of obstacles and if Grafton hadn't take full advantage of their opportunities I thought we were playing well enough to lead at halftime."

For Grafton Jacob Page, Zac Mason-Gale and Scott Lloyd were standouts while at the back Hancock was simply superb.

Grafton also went down 20-5 in a dour reserve grade contest with both sides reluctant to spread the ball.

WEEKEND RESULTS

First Grade

Hastings Valley 48 defeated Kemspey 7

Port Macquarie 31 defeated Grafton 12

Coffs Harbour 40 defeated Wauchope 3

Southern Cross University Bye

Reserve Grade

Hastings Valley 27 defeated Kempsey 8

Port Macquarie 20 defeated Grafton 5

Coffs Harbour 38 defeated Wauchope 3

South West Rocks 34 defeated Bowraville 17

Southern Cross University Bye



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