Ghosts one win away from another grand final
TWO OUT OF three ain't bad.
Meat Loaf might not be the wisest man on the planet, but the title of his 1977 classic is exactly how the Grafton Ghosts feel after their final home games of the season.
Two out of the three senior grades won their minor semi-finals on Saturday, with the first-grade Ghosts putting in one of their finest defensive displays of the season to beat Byron Bay Red Devils 22-6.
The Ghosts were humbled by Ballina Seagulls in the qualifying final last week, but captain-coach Ryan Farrell said the team faced a few "home truths" in the lead-up to the sudden-death clash.
"We were dominated last week and we really had a lot of work to do," Farrell said.
"There were a few things we were pretty unhappy with. We prepared really well for that game but we played like we expected to win. We addressed that during the week and the whole team lifted."
Whatever was said worked like a charm, with the Ghosts turning on an impressive defence.
Ghosts centre Khan Williams scored the only try of the first half, as Byron Bay peppered the home side's line but failed to capitalise.
The early stages of the second half were delicately poised before centre Aaron Hartmann split the defence from a scrum and carried two players over to score.
From there it was dominated by the Ghosts, with a late converted try to Byron Bay winger Rex Sheavils.
Farrell, who played on despite suffering a heavy head knock, said his team could breathe easier following Hartmann's sensational solo effort in the 56th minute.
"We worked hard for everything and wanted to protect our line," the dusty halfback said.
"When you get to 14 points you do relax a little bit because you have a bit of a buffer.
"Unfortunately, we let them in at the end but I was happy with the way we played."
A final-minute intercept to Farrell allowed Ben McLennan a shot at goal in his 100th game, which he slotted despite some early nerves.
The Ghosts will travel to Murwillumbah next week for the preliminary final but the first-grade team will not be travelling alone.
The reserve-grade team staged a sensational late comeback in their minor semi-final against Casino Cougars, scoring two tries in the final eight minutes to win 20-14. Reserve-grade halfback Jake Frame turned in an epic clutch play in the 75th minute, slotting a sideline conversion to give the Ghosts a two-point lead.
A try to Riley Want two minutes later sealed the Cougars' season, while the Ghosts will play the loser of Northern United and Marist Brothers next week.
It was not all good news for the Ghosts, with the under-18s falling 26-14 to Mullumbimby Giants in a game tainted by a fight from which five players were sent off.