Season hangs in balance
HOW do you win a game of rugby without the ball?
The answer is, you don’t.
Ballina celebrated their fifth win of the season, hammering Grafton 20-0 at Rugby Park on Saturday.
The visitors punished an error-riddled Redmen side in a dour contest with the referee working overtime on the whistle.
The Redmen were guilty of infringing at the ruck leaving referee Karl Upton with no option but to award penalty after penalty.
The home side were starved of possession for most of the match in a game devoid of running rugby.
Unforced errors and turnovers took centre stage as both teams struggled to entertain the large crowd on hand.
It has been a frustrating season for Redmen coach Brad Lloyd who admits his side need to improve dramatically if they are in to have any chance of featuring in the semi-finals.
“We certainly have the strength in the club but it’s a matter of putting together a few wins in a row,” a disappointed Lloyd said after the match.
“Reserve grade got another win which was good to see.
“I think that’s the first time I’ve seen them defeat Ballina in reserve grade.
“We have to start aiming up or our semi-final aspirations will be out the door.”
Injuries to key players have taken a toll on the Redmen in recent weeks, forcing the inspirational captain-coach to make regular changes to the backline.
“We still have a few backs missing so I played Ben Robertson in the centres today,” Lloyd said.
“He usually plays in the back-row but I thought he did a good job for us today.
“He defended well and was good at the breakdown, but we failed to give the backs enough ball in the attacking zone.
“The lineout was once again under pressure so it’s something we need to focus on during the week.”
When asked about the mounting penalty count, Lloyd said the Redmen only had themselves to blame.
“We continually infringed at the ruck which was not good enough,” he said.
“You can’t tell them (players) or you can’t train them ... it’s very frustrating.
“I could hear the referee as plain as day telling me to get my hands off the ball but obviously others didn’t.”
Although on the wrong side of the scoreboard, Grafton’s fullback Kyle Hancock continued to impress out on the paddock.
The rangy No.15 was brilliant at the back in both defence and attack. His ‘coolness’ under pressure was a highlight and he used his booming right foot to great effect.
Grafton’s next outing is a must-win game against an improving Casino outfit.
And hopefully for Lloyd, his side will be close to full strength.
“We should have a few guys back," he said.
“We have the side to give the competition a real shake, but we have to get going and get over the line.”