Ballina’s Luke Sullivan and Lismore’s Will Cotterill come to grips in the rugby union major semi-final on Saturday.
Ballina’s Luke Sullivan and Lismore’s Will Cotterill come to grips in the rugby union major semi-final on Saturday.

City in a thriller

THEY call them 'coach killers'- games that are decided in the final minute of play.

That's how Saturday's Far North Coast Rugby Union major semi-final panned out with the Lismore City Greens snatching a thrilling 13-8 win against minor premiers the Ballina Seahorses.

The Greens trailed by two points with the clock ticking down to the full-time siren, when English import winger Greg Hughes popped up to score his most important try of the season so far.

On the sidelines, Lismore City coach Ron Cox thought his team was getting into position to take a field goal attempt when Hughes scored unrepentantly.

“They are coach killers, they really are,” Cox said of the pulsating finish to the semi-final.

“It was a pretty even battle, right until the end. If anything, Ballina did more running in their backs, but any game you win like that is a good win.”

In a close match, the boot of halfback Ben Felicioni proved to be the key difference. In tricky wind conditions he potted a conversion and two penalty goals.

The win means the Greens have booked themselves a place in the FNC grand final on September 12.

It's an achievement Cox hopes his team won't take for granted after claiming the minor premiership last year only to bow out with two consecutive losses in the finals series.

“Everyone was really happy to get the win but I think that everyone realises after last year that to get to a grand final takes a lot of hard work and that we've still got to turn up on the day of the grand final,” Cox said.

“We don't really care who we play, whoever it is, we've got to beat them, but I couldn't pick who we'll meet.”

The Seahorses will now play the Lennox Head Trojans in the preliminary final at Lyle Park, Wollongbar, this Saturday for the right to meet Lismore in the premiership decider.

Ballina coach Andrew Grant-Frost knows his team blew a big opportunity to bypass the cut-throat clash after leading Lismore 8-6 at half-time in Saturday's semi-final.

“You just can't guard any of the top four teams in the last few minutes of the second half,” he said.

“I think Lismore sensed an opportunity and just had that little bit of extra juice left in the tank and we are just going to have to cop that loss on the chin.”

But given that Ballina made half a dozen changes to its starting line-up for Saturday's semi, Grant-Frost now believes he has the combinations right to take on Lennox Head.

“I think the team that wins it this week will win the grand final,” he said. “I think Lismore are beatable by either of the two other sides.”

But Ballina may be without winger Rick Randall (hamstring), who scored the team's only try on Saturday, and South African hooker Jacques Lotter (ankle) for Saturday's do-or-die clash with Lennox Head.

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