Redmen looking to have a strong finish at home
THEY can't reach the finals but the Grafton Redmen are focused on finishing 2014 with a bang.
Grafton hosted its final Far North Coast Rugby Union game of the season on Saturday and celebrated a 29-19 first-grade win.
Flyer Ben Stone bagged a double while veteran premiership-winning five-eighth John Chevally made a triumphant return to cover Nathan McPherson's second-half injury.
Peter Tonkin, who coaches the side with Don Darke, said he was pleased with the performance.
"It's a very good way to finish at home," Tonkin said.
Tonkin said the side benefitd from strong performances by David Clark and Angus McDonald who stepped up to cover front-rowers Beau Brotherson and Luke Deleiuen.
They were further hampered by Justin Travers' straight red card for throwing a punch after about half an hour, which left the Redmen with only 14 players.
But the Clarence Valley's sole first-grade side perseered, showing the fighting spirit for which the players are renowned for.
"Bangalow are like us in that they can't make the finals," Tonkin said.
"We thought if we could break them early it'd make it a whole lot easier for us to get home."
And that's exactly what they did.
The Redmen exploded out of the blocks to run in three tries in the first 20 minutes, and eventually secured the bonus point.
They then showed a defensive resolve on which the club will be looking to build in their final two games of the season for their 2015 campaign.
Tonkin did not single out any one player that stood above the rest, but said he gave his three points to Scott Lloyd.
"He's been great the last few weeks and he was everywhere again," Tonkin said.
"Beau Deleiuen did a great job taking over the captaincy when Beau Brotherson went off. Stoney had another good game and scored two great tries with his speed.''
South Grafton Rebels and North Coast representative prop Ian Leota had another enormous game for the Redmen, scoring a try and earning maximum points from the referees.
Darke and Tonkin will now be in a dilemma as injuries wreak havoc with the first-grade squad.
Reserve grade, President's Cup and the under-18s are all on track to qualify for the finals, and Tonkin made it clear he didn't want to tear those sides apart.
"I'm loath to bring anyone up because they are on track," Tonkin said.
"We're scraping the bottom of the barrel at the moment to make sure we have numbers."
The U18s lost 35-32 to Casino in a result that could upset their finals qualification process.
Grafton must win its remaining games and hope Casino loses to ensure reaching the final four.