Ballina rule in second half rugby
BALLINA have fired an early warning shot after beating defending premiers Wollongbar-Alstonville 57-33 in Far North Coast rugby union at Lyle Park, Wollongbar on Saturday.
It was a dominant second-half performance by the Seahorses which saw them pile on seven tries and 43 unanswered points.
Five-eighth Grant Knight was tenacious in scoring his second try and kept the Pioneers in their own half with his astute kicking game.
No.8 Jake Smith scored a similar try and went on to score the second from the back of a scrum.
Ballina were ruthless at the set piece with halfback Mitchell Knight scoring a try from another pushover scrum.
"We scored plenty of points but I think it was our defence that really improved in the second half,” Ballina coach Chris Hickey said.
"On the back of that the opportunities came and a lot of it was just the simple stuff done well.
"Two pushover tries is a great reward for the hard work our front-rowers do week in and week out.
"We're pretty confident with whoever comes into the team and this gives us something to build on now.”
The Pioneers looked the better team in the first half and it seemed like that might have gone on with them taking a 26-14 lead into the break.
Second-rower Steve Mison produced a strong performance and they ran in back-to-back tries just before half-time.
However, they were starved of possession as the game went on with front-rower Alivate Karalo scoring a consolation try just before full-time.
It was his second of the game and he found enough space out wide after Ballina centre Anthony Lolohea was yellow-carded.
Coach Ern Sandral is not pushing the panic button yet with a handful of players still to come back into the side.
"We were optimistic going into the second half because of that momentum we had,” Sandral said.
"But giving away that much ball in our red zone, we were always going to end up with the score we got in the end.
"The boys are disappointed and I take my hat off to Ballina for their support play around the ruck.
"The two teams in many ways were quite equal but when one gets the ball for a long period of time like that they're pretty hard to stop.”
Ballina 57 (Jake Smith 2, Grant Knight 2, Josh Hickey, Luke Kliese, Mitch Knight, Terry Ferguson, Joel Staude tries, Mitch Knight 6 conversions) d Wollongbar Alstonville 33 (Alivate Karalo 2, Bill Johnston, Sam Kerry, George Toomey tries, Sam Kerry 4 conversions)
Half-time: Wollongbar 26 - Ballina 14
Bangalow 50 (Ryan Duffy 2, Vincent Young 2, Tom Slater, Simeli Miranalasekula, Benson Lockyer tries, Tom Slater 6 conversions, penalty goal) d Southern Cross University 7 (Will Hawkins try, Aaron Ashley conversion)
Half-time: Bangalow 22 - SCU 0
Byron Bay 33 (Will Rudkin 2, James Bulmer, Mark Howard tries, Joel Stocks 4 conversions, penalty goal) d Lismore 14(Rory Richardson, Cody Johnston tries, Rory Richardson 2 conversions)
Half-time: Byron 7 - Lismore 7
Lennox Head 54 (Hayden Blair 2, Mackenzie Winchester 2, Brad Lees 2, Tasman De Groot, Sam Fitzgerald tries, Hugo Marks 7 conversions) d Casino 21 (Harrison Cusack, Glen Pollard, Korey Bennett tries, Harrison Cusack 2 conversions)
Half-time: Casino 21 - Lennox 17
Points - Bangalow 13, Lennox Head 12, Byron Bay 11, Ballina 10, Wollongbar 6, Casino 5, Casuarina 1, Lismore 1, SCU 0
Mullumbimby 46 d Bangalow 5
Ballina 41 d Wollongbar 12
Byron Bay 13 d Lismore 5
Lennox Head 31 d Casino 10
Yamba 43 d Mur'bah 7
Tenterfield 18 d Kyogle 0
Evans River 37 d Iluka 19