Ballina works over Mustangs
By DARREN MONCRIEFF
BALLINA is top dog for another week in the Retravision Northern League after putting in a workmanlike performance to dispose of Murwillumbah 38-16 at Kingsford Smith Park yesterday.
The Seagulls had all the answers in the 22-point win, denying the Mustangs room to move and capitalising on their mistakes, of which there were many. Adding to the Mustangs' misery was a bad run of injuries, the worst of which was what looked liked to be a serious knee injury to lock Chris Patison in the second half.
The Seagulls' win has them first on the NRRRL ladder with 22 points, leading Mullumbimby on 21 after the Giants defated Lower Clarence 44-14.
There was a real sense of purpose to the Seagulls yesterday. Perhaps with last week's loss to Byron Bay still fresh in mind, the Seagulls were a picture of concentration, holding their own when defending and pouncing when the Mustangs were forced into errors.
The Seagulls didn't give Murwillumbah much latitude and territory for a fair portion of the first half with Nev Killingbeck and skipper Grant Clements leading the way with big games.
Ballina took control from the start and looked liked they'd coast it in after tough halfback Willie Hammond set up speedy winger Matt Gibson to cross in the corner to take the home side up to 24-6.
The shell-shocked Mustangs gradually worked themselves back into the game both sides of the break and were kept in it with the efforts of fullback Shannon Murphy, who scored a try and whose run gave his side some valuable turf.
There were some ripples of concern among the Ballina faithful in the second half when, after receiving a penalty, hooker Andrew Battese's goal attempt from some 40 metres out sailed wide. But just when it seemed the Mustangs were in with a chance, the Ballina forward pack hit back hard, allowing room for their quicks in Gibson and Brenton Cochrane.
A beautiful Cochrane sidestep and flick pass saw Battesse cross late to snuff out any hope of a Mustangs fightback.
Seagulls coach Chris Binge was understandably rapt with the win.
"We spoke earlier in the week about what we needed to do to win and I'm just over the moon on our effort," he said. "That was exactly the effort that was required for today's game."
Binge was pleased with the effort of severral of his players, most notably Battese, who led by example by soldiering on after receiving several heavy knocks.
"I'm just glad he's playing for us and not against us," Binge said.
"He's grown as a player this year. He's the type of kid who likes the tough stuff and he's gotten up after those hits and carried on with it. I think he has a big future ahead of him."
"I think Willie Hammond, Alwyn Roberts and Grant Clements are becoming our most consistent players. These guys are like a tower of strength to the others and also with the experience they bring to our side."