Slatts inspires ?Gulls
By STEVE SPINKS
A MATT Slattery-inspired Ballina Sea-gulls returned to the winners' list with a comprehensive 36-10 victory over Casino in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League match at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, yesterday.
Slattery, a rangy second-rower, defended valiantly and was difficult to stop with the ball as the Seagulls outclassed the Cougars seven tries to two.
The 21-year-old is a local junior but only recently returned to Ballina after attending university in Queensland.
He has since transferred to Southern Cross University where he will complete a physical education degree this year.
Slattery has been one of the Seagulls' best this season, but he stood out more yesterday because of the performance of the Ballina pack.
Last week the Ballina forwards were ominously quiet when they were dominated by Marist Brothers.
Yesterday they were aggressive and ran with determination in the wet at Kingsford Smith Park.
Reinstated front-rowers Grant Erickson and Matt Connor were outstanding in the tight exchanges, while lock Josh Mather was another to shine.
It was Mather's first top-grade game in a number of years as he has played second division with Lennox Head for the past couple of seasons.
Fullback Shaun Laurie also excelled, scoring three tries and kicking four goals in the heavy conditions.
The Seagulls always looked in control, even though they were not at their best.
The hosts led 14-0 at half-time and it probably would have been more except both sides really failed to adjust to the miserable conditions.
Just after half-time the Cougars and Seagulls traded tries before Ballina ran away with the match in the final quarter.
"It wasn't our best performance," Ballina coach Chris Binge said.
"Since the loss against Brothers we've been a bit flat, but the conditions didn't help either side today."
Binge singled out Erickson, Connor, Mather and Slattery as his best.
Casino were far from disgraced but they did look disorganised in attack.
Again prop Chris McGrath was outstanding, while hooker Jason Blakey, prop Dene Petty and lock Kirk Hancock tried hard.
Halfback Evan Hickling was dangerous with the ball but he lacked help in attack.
BALLINA 36 (Shaun Laurie 3, Mitch Aubusson, Matt Connor, Matt Temby, Justin Bolt tries; Shaun Laurie 4 goals) d CASINO 10 (Mark Cox, Cameron George tries; Matt Roberts goal). Half-time: Ballina 14-0.
Reserve grade: BALLINA 40 (Joe O'Connor, Shane O'Connor, Des Anderson 2, Cameron Fourmile, Raan Campbell, Paul Taggett tries; Des Anderson 5, Matt Thompson goals) d CASINO 10 (Sam Walker, Reece Hickling tries; Jacob Benn goal).
Under-18s: BALLINA 28 (Clarence Kelly 2, Damien Buckley, Rick Blatchley, Ed Killingbeck, Sam Payne tries; Ben Crawford 2 goals) d CASINO 12 (Jacob Benn 2, Wade Sweeney tries).