Masters on exhibition
By JOHN DRYSDALE
AGAINST all odds, Grafton upset minor premiers Ballina to win through to the reserve grade grand final.
With playmaker Tony Norton suddenly elevated to first grade and a spate of first-half injuries which saw them lose lively halfback Denis Banks, the Redmen took the match up to Ballina and grabbed an unexpected 10-3 lead just on half-time.
When Beau Milner put Adam Gordon through a gap for a neat Ballina try soon after the break it looked like the tide was turning for the Seahorses, who levelled at 10-all.
But the Redmen battled on, wore down the Ballina pack, crept ahead with a Simon Green penalty and sealed the match with a try on full-time to elated captain Bryce Gorham.
Although they did not get on top of the Grafton pack, Chris Long, Josh Cook and Brett McLennan played strongly for Ballina, along with halfback Paul Lynch.
Apart from Banks, Trent Dickson filled in well at five-eighth, while Gorham, Runge, Green and Dave Hales stood out in the Grafton pack.
GRAFTON 20 (M Runge, B Gorham tries; S Green 2 conversions, 2 penalty goals) d BALLINA 10 (Adam Gordon try, conversion, penalty goal).
n LISMORE gave minor premiers Wollongbar- Alstonville a shake in the first 20 minutes of the Under-19 major semi before going down 24-12.
Forwards Justin Sant, Scott Gay and Barry Williams, along with fullback Rory Richardson, led the charge to put the Greens up 12-0 before the Pioneers warmed up.
Late in the first half the Wollongbar backline clicked into gear. Fullback Andrew Cullen then centre Brett Arnull crossed for fine tries to level the score 12-all at the break.
Play swept from end-to-end until Wollongbar No 8 Steve Mison fed off a Lismore mistake to score, breaking the deadlock.
Then good work from five-eighth Ben Damen helped replacement back Adam Law score from another Lismore error, wrapping up the win for the Pioneers.
Others to stand out for Lismore were centre Stu Standing and Matt Bermingham.
Ben Coridas, James McMilllan, Jascha Saeck and Rick Eggins also went well for Wollongbar.
WOLLONGBAR-ALSTONVILLE 24 (A Cullen, B Arnull, S Mison tries; P Austen, B Damen conversions) d LISMORE 12 (S Gay, R Richardson tries; M Bermingham conversion).
n BYRON BAY coasted into the third grade grand final, downing minor premiers Lismore 38-13.
The Bay got a leg up through from an embarrassing first half by the Greens, who dropped nearly every pass thrown.
Byron's forwards, well led by Warren Fisher and Mick Leece, snapped up the loose ball and the backs did the rest.
Halves Matt Alexander and Noel Tate, who starred for Byron, put together the first of four first-half tries to give the Bay a 31-3 lead.
After the break, strong centre Emanuel Nayagoamu added another try to the Byron total before Lismore crossed for two late tries.
Five-eighth Brandon Moynihan, No 8 Richie Rummery, winger Maina Wambuga and replacement Tony Gaunt were Lismore's best. Locks Nick Bladon and Wes Garrard worked hard for Byron.
BYRON BAY 38 (E Nayagoamu 2 ,M Alexander,M Singh, M Leece tries; N Taite 5 conversions, penalty goal) d LISMORE 15 ( B Moynihan, K Choppy tries; D Crethar conversion, penalty goal)