By DARREN MONCRIEFF
??WE??VE still got a helluva lot of improvement left in us.?? When your coach can chuck a line like that out there, minutes after a 72-18 walloping of one of the quicker sides in the competition, you know you may be set for a good second half of a season.
That, or he??s playing down an impressive 54-point win lest his boys get ahead of themselves.
Those words came from Ballina Seagulls coach Chris Binge, whose side kept an out-of-sorts Kyogle Turkeys outfit scoreless in the first half of their Retravision Northern League Round 8 match at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, yesterday.
The Seagulls were, to borrow a line from 1980s songster Robert Palmer, ??simply irresistible??.
Their defensive structure was sound, denying the Turkeys yardage and forcing mistakes from the usually slick Kyogle. Everything they touched turned to gold.
Only brief cameos from Michael Walker and Tom Ivanusa saved Kyogle from total embarrassment when a Walker chip found his skipper free to cross for the Turkeys?? first try, mid-way through the second half.
Celebrating his selection in the NSW Country Under-18 team, Ballina??s Andrew Battese ran amok on the Turkeys defence, crossing for four tries and kicking all the conversions).
Strong displays also came from halfback Willie Hammond, lock Alwyn Roberts, fullback Jamie Quinn and prop Dylan Montgomery.
Binge said the win set up the Seagulls nicely: ??We can set ourselves up for a good second part of the season now,?? he said.
??We go into these sort of games, against Kyogle and Marist Brothers especially, knowing how tough they can be, so we came prepared for whatever Kyogle would throw at us.?? That preparation had obviously paid off with the Seagulls pouncing on forced and unforced errors to punish the Turkeys.
A smart intercept by Ballina??s Matt Gibson near his own line mid-way through the first half allowed the winger to gain 60 metres and, with the Turkeys?? defence in disarray, Ben Crawford was backing up out wide and crossed for his first and the Seagulls?? fourth try.
Minutes later, a Walter Donnelly dropped ball saw Crawford on the receiving end of a Roberts pass to score easily. A Wes Torrens mistake in the Turkeys zone, when he hesitated over a bouncing chipped ball, allowed Ed Killingbeck to touch down for Ballina??s sixth try and go into the sheds 36-0 up at half-time.
The win puts Ballina top of the ladder, one point above Mullumbimby.
The story was similar at Byron Bay, where the home team trounced Lower Clarence 34-6, elevating the Red Devils to third on the ladder with 10 points behind rivals the Giants only on for and against.
In other games yesterday, Casino went down to South Tweed 46-30, Cudgen defeated South Grafton 40-18 and Tweed Coast defeated Grafton Ghosts 60-20.
Marist Brothers had the bye.
Competition points: Ballina 12, Mullumbimby 10, Byron Bay 10, Murwillumbah 10, South Tweed 10, Tweed Coast Raiders 10, Lower Clarence 8, Marist Brothers 8, Casino RSM 6, Kyogle 5, Grafton Ghosts 4, Cudgen 2, South Grafton 2. ?z ?? Evans Head has been admitted to the NRRRL reserve grade competition to fill the bye.