Struggle for Grafton Redmen as they lose to Lismore City
A POOR opening 20 minutes proved the difference as the Grafton Redmen fell to Lismore City on Saturday.
The Redmen came into the match with a fresh approach to rugby, with new structures in place designed to provide a new style of play that could deliver more victories.
But they seemed to discard the gameplan when the opening whistle sounded, and paid the price as Lismore ran in three early tries.
Redmen coach Peter Tonkin said there were some good moments to take away from the game, but his team had a lot to work on to improve the performance.
"Sure there were a few positives but it was pretty frustrating to see them move away from what we had trained to do," Tonkin said.
"I didn't see the forwards apply our new structure once and whenever we made a break we kicked the ball away.
"They were trying to score off every play rather than using the ball and building to points."
As poor as the opening 20 minutes were for the Redmen, the last hour of the game proved they could mix it with the best.
Lismore could have easily run away with the game and posted a cricket score, but the Redmen dug in and managed to hold their opponents to just one more try.
The loss of inside centre Kane Dickson to a groin injury didn't help the home team's cause, with the backline forced to reshuffle an hour before kick-off.
Winger Ben Stone featured in the highest and lowest moments of the game from Grafton's perspective, with his late try getting the Redmen on the board.
Before that he was given an enforced break by the referee after a controversial shoulder charge following a kick downfield.
Stone seemed to brace himself for an unavoidable impact and collected the Lismore fullback who appeared to lay down to draw the penalty.
Tonkin said the game was close, but paid tribute to his team for the way they defended.
"The referee was pretty good during the game but it was the linesman who called it," Tonkin said.
"It could've gone either way. The way the rest of the team dug in to hold Lismore out for that time was really good."
Tom Tanner was named the Redmen's best in the game, with American Ben Thomas getting a big rap in his debut performance.
"This was Ben's first game over here and he played the whole game," Tonkin said.
"We asked him what he thought of the game and he said there would've been about 10 red cards in the USA."