Rhinos exposed by Ghosts
IT’S been a turbulent week for the Grafton Rhinos and their season got a whole lot worse yesterday against the Ghosts at Frank McGuren Field.
After the sudden departure of their coach Shaun Fathers last week the Rhinos were dealt a 50-14 hiding at the hands of their arch-rivals.
The Ghosts put the cleaners through the Rhinos defence, running in nine tries to three in front of a massive home crowd.
The home side were at fever pitch from the outset, tackling in threes and fours with their suffocating defence.
And it only took five minutes to post their first points after a well-worked backline move allowed winger Sam Hartmann to crash over in the corner.
Minutes later rangy second-rower Ryan Danvers exposed some brittle Rhinos’ defence to score next to the uprights.
But just when the visitors looked like turning the game into a contest, front-rower Ben Woods received 10 minutes in the sin-bin for taking a Ghosts’ player out attempting a charge-down.
At times the Rhinos looked rudderless as the Ghosts shifted up another gear and by the half-time break the home side had skipped ahead 28-0.
To their credit the Rhinos gave their supporters a glimmer of hope after the break when man-mountain Jone Macilai scored out wide.
But the Rhinos’ revival was short lived as the Ghosts went into overdrive, thrilling their vocal fans with some scintillating four-pointers.
The 2010 premiers played some exhilarating free-flowing football late in the second term with Daniel Lollback, Khan Williams and ‘Mr Perpetual Motion’, hooker Rhys Walters entertaining the crowd.
Second-rower Ben McLennan produced his best game of the season and not far behind was front-rower and Ghosts’ new signing Tom Freebody.
But it was the diminutive Ghosts No.9 with the headgear who stole the show.
Walters was a constant threat around the ruck with his darting runs from dummy-half and slick service to the backs.
For coach Col Speed the win proved the Ghosts are not lacking in depth.
“I think a big rap needs to go to our interchange players,” Speed said.
“When they went on they lifted the tempo and played some good footy.
“Having a lot of interchanges is part and parcel of how we train and our structure on the field.
“I can throw blokes into most positions ... right centre, left centre ... it doesn’t matter.”
Speed also revealed after the match his bench was changed to accommodate the Rhinos.
“The bench was a little bit different this week. We went in with two speedsters and young Jurdy (Adam Jurd) and Sam Lennon,” he said.
“I thought Sam was very impressive and the other thing is Rhys needs a rap.
“He’s adapted to his role when Sam comes on.”
The Ghosts’ mentor will have a nice headache to deal with during the week after Daniel Lollback picked up a double coming off the bench.
“Dan has definitely asked some questions about the run-on side for next week,” Speed said.
“He’s a good talker on the field and very enthusiastic. Playing in reserve grade has probably done him a world of good.”
For Ghosts’ fullback Mitchell Lollback playing alongside his brother Dan in a local derby was something he’s dreamed about although he was far from happy in his older brother bagging a double.
“It was good playing alongside Dan, I really enjoyed it,” Mitchell said.
“He got two tries and I only got one so next time I’ll have to turn that around.
“He did however save my bacon when Ravueta kicked ahead and Dan beat both of us to the ball.
“He’s a little bit quicker than me.”
The Rhinos, who went into the match without a regular first grade coach, struggled to make in-roads against a rock-solid Ghosts’ defence.
They did however manage to put 14 points on the competition favourites through sheer determination.
Macilai in the centres was strong and fullback Ricky Farr had some wonderful touches of the football crossing for a well-deserved try late in the game.