Lismore, Wollongbar-Alstonville, Ballina share spoils
By JOHN DRYSDALE
A TRY to retiring club stalwart Mark Williams and a soaring conversion from near the touchline by five-eighth Adam Gordon gave Ballina a late 15-14 lead in the tight Reserve Grade grand final. With the result still in the balance in the last minutes of the match, Gordon kicked a penalty to seal an 18-14 win and the major premiership for the Seahorses. It was a match that the defending premiers Grafton could easily have won. The Redmen's usually accurate goal-kicker Simon Green missed three penalty shots which were well within his range. Grafton got off to a dream start when a bad bounce eluded Ballina winger Jamie Coote and Shan Warren crossed. Green converted for a 7-0 lead. Grafton's lineout dominance gave Ballina little ball to work with in the first half but a penalty goal and a 40m try to Gordon saw them go to the break leading 8-7. Grafton attacked early in the second half but Ballina held their line with forwards Danny Lickiss, Brett McLennan and Mark Charter leading the defensive effort. With 20 minutes to go a break by fullback Tom Gerrard led to a try by Green and the Redmen took a 14-8 lead. Grafton defended doggedly until the Ballina backline swung into action and Williams scored. Halfback Denis Banks, hooker Sean Austin, No 8 Bryce Gorham, locks Craig Chad and Matt Runge all made wholehearted efforts for the Redmen. Others to shine for the Seahorses were halfback Paul Lynch, flanker Geoff Parry and fullback Adam Fisher.
Geoff Radburn Trophy: BALLINA 18 (Adam Gordon, M Williams; Adam Gordon conversion, 2 penalty goals) d GRAFTON 14 (S Warren, S Green tries; S Green 2 conversions). Highest Pointscorer 2005 - Terry Murphy (Wollongbar).
FIVE-eighth Ben Damen was the hero for Wollongbar-Alstonville, scoring two tries in the last 10 minutes of the Under-19 clash which saw the Pioneers just pip a valiant Casino 24-21. The Bulls looked set to cause the upset of the season as they led 21-12 midway through the second half. Down 5-0 at half-time after the Pioneers half Brad Marsh finished off a good backline raid, the Bulls came out strongly after a rest in the shade. Halfback Jason Gava, who had an outstanding game for the Bulls, scored off the back of a ruck a minute into the second half. Ross Pedrini converted to give Casino a short-lived 7-5 lead. Wollongbar winger Phil Austen outpaced the defence for a five-pointer, converted by Damen. But Gava put Michael Webb into a gap for a try under the crossbar and the Bulls edged in front 14-12 with Pedrini's conversion. They went further ahead 21-12 when replacement forward Brett Yates crossed out wide. With 15 minutes to go the minor premiers, who had not been beaten throughout the season, looked like going down to the committed Bulls, who scraped into the semis in fourth position. Some fresh replacements and a big effort from the forwards, especially Ben Coridas, Scott McPherson and Luke Nunn, turned the tide in the dying stages. Damen's first try closed the gap to 21-19 and his second out wide with minutes left on the clock won the match. Apart from Gava, forwards Andrew Levett, Amos Kennedy, Shaun Makings and fullback Brian Wirth worked hard for the Bulls. Prop Andrew Cormick, lock Mitchell Craig and winger Phil Austen also did well for the Pioneers.
Commonwealth Bank Shield: WOLLONGBAR-ALSTONVILLE 24 (B Damen 2, B Marsh, P Austen tries; B Damen 2 conversions) d CASINO 21 (J Gava, M Webb, B Yates ties; R Pedrini 3 conversions). Highest Pointscorer 2005 - Brad Newby (Lennox Head). JETSTAR Best and Fairest: Ryan Graham (Lismore).
LISMORE won its first Third Grade premiership since 1997 with a dour 11-0 victory over Byron Bay. It was sweet revenge for the Greens who had been hammered 38-15 by the Bay in the major semi final. The win was built on a committed effort from the forwards, especially try-scorer Luke Palaziol, Luke Fayle, Norrie Blume, Vaughan Nilsson and Damien Maher and a sound kicking game from five-eighth Mark Latham. Latham gained many metres with his line kicks, dropped a neat field goal late in the game and worried the Byron defence when he ran the ball. Byron attacked strongly in the first few minutes of the match but Lismore were in control for the rest of the match and should have won by more. They bombed at least four tries. Others to impress for the Greens were fullback Justin Lane and winger Maina Wambugu. Best for the Bay were halfback Matt Alexander, centre Rob Lynch and forwards Mark Singh, Mick Leece and Warren Fisher.
Far North Coast Shield: LISMORE 11 (L Palaziol try; D Crethar penalty, G Latham drop goal) d BRYON BAY 0. Highest Point Scorer 2005 - Dion Crethar (Lismore). Other Awards Club Championship (Dorofeeff Shield) - Lismore. Club of the Year - Wollongbar Alstonville. President's Trophy - Services to Far North Coast Rugby, Andrew Bennett (Yamba).