EVER ELUSIVE: Shannon Walker on the run for Cudgen against Ballina during the NRRRL qualifying semi-final at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, yesterday.
EVER ELUSIVE: Shannon Walker on the run for Cudgen against Ballina during the NRRRL qualifying semi-final at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, yesterday. Mitchell Craig

Ballina aiming for second straight grand final after big win

BALLINA is one win away from a second straight grand final after defeating Cudgen 28-12 in Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, yesterday.

A late try to centre Oliver Regan sealed the win in the qualiyfing semi-final to earn the Seagulls a place in the major semi against minor premiers Tweed Coast Raiders on Sunday.

It was a gritty performance from Ballina, which aimed up in the forwards against a bigger Cudgen pack.

"Our forwards have always been pretty tough and they enjoy that sort of challenge,” coach Mick Foster said.

"They came here to do a job today and they got it done.

"The mateship we have in our side and the way the boys work for each other is outstanding.

"We're pretty fresh at the moment with everyone on deck and we love this time of year.”

Ballina came out of the blocks firing taking an early 10-0 lead after tries to five-eighth Kel Sheather and winger Liam Anderson.

Cudgen livewire Shannon Walker shifted from the centres to fullback for the game and produced a mixed bag.

He made some errors in the second half but set up the Hornets' first try when he created space for five-eighth Todd Seymour.

Ballina took a 16-4 lead when a perfectly timed grubber kick from hooker Andrew Battese saw Sheather pounce for his second try of the half.

Sheather was targeted throughout the game but the Seagulls still kicked ahead to 22-8 in the second half after he was collected late.

"They definitely didn't miss him today but he's pretty tough for a young kid,” Foster said.

"There were a fair few penalties in the second half. That slowed the game down and didn't really suit the way we play.

"Cudgen are a hard side, though. They never throw in the towel and they've been up the top for a few years now for that reason.”

Ballina centre Dan Gibson was outstanding in defence while front-rower Phil Crosby, lock Michael Dwane and second-rower Justin Shillingsworth all contributed.

Cudgen will play Murwillumbah on Saturday with front-rower Caleb Ziebell expected to return after he was ruled out late with a groin injury

Earlier, Cudgen had a convincing 34-10 win over Casino in reserve grade after a 20-6 win over Tweed Coast in the Under-18s.

Defending premiers Byron Bay had a 14-10 win over Ballina in the women's league tag.

End of the Giants

MULLUMBIMBY'S season came to an end when they went down 40-20 to Murwillumbah in the NRRRL elimination semi-final at Stan Sercombe Oval, Murwillumbah, on Saturday.

The home club defeated Kyogle 31-12 in reserve grade but lost the women's league tag 16-12 to the Tweed Coast Raiders.

In the Under-18s, Lower Clarence ended Marist Brothers' season with a 36-16 win.



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