Ghosts edge closer
GRAFTON Ghosts are a step closer to three consecutive premierships after a 24-8 win over the Byron Bay Red Devils in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League qualifying semi-final at Frank McGuren Field, Grafton, yesterday.
Losing centre Sam Hartmann with a suspected broken ankle late in the game was the only concern for Ghosts afterwards.
The Red Devils were the first to score tries in both halves but were left seething when they finished well behind in the penalty count.
"It was a bit of a circus in that first half and I think both sides would agree," Red Devils coach Tobin Cupples said.
"When a referee blows a penalty 12 times in a half the game is never going to flow.
"It (the penalty count) finished at 16-5 and in a semi-final you want the game to flow.
"Grafton are quality, though, and they turned up ready to play."
Byron Bay fullback Adam Gordon, second-rower Scott Sattler and centres Chris King and Clarence Kelly were well contained.
Halfback Brent Peterson asked plenty of questions of the home side's defence and looked frustrated when the final pass failed to stick.
Kelly looked like he was going to put the Red Devils in front but the pass from Peterson was deemed to have gone forward.
When Byron Bay lock Michael Lambert gave away a penalty for a high shot on Ghosts prop Ben McLennan, it proved costly.
Second-rower Ryan Danvers kicked the goal to put Ghosts out beyond two converted tries.
"They have some strike weapons right across the park and to hold them to eight is a huge effort from all the boys," Grafton captain-coach Ryan Farrell said.
Fullback Mitchell Lollback and lock Dan Roberts were solid for Ghosts while wing-er Joel Moss looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.
Byron Bay were best served by front-rower Simon Kelly, hooker Cale Rowston and Peterson.
MINOR SEMI-FINALS AT BYRON BAY ON SATURDAY:
First grade: Byron Bay v Ballina
Reserve grade: Murwillumbah v Northern United
Under-18s: Ballina v Marist Brothers
MAJOR SEMI-FINALS AT MURWILLUMBAH ON SUNDAY:
First grade: Murwillumbah v Grafton Ghosts
Reserve grade: Grafton Ghosts v Mullumbimby
Under-18s: Mullumbimby v Grafton Ghosts