Pioneers stretch their lead with win over Ballina
WOLLONGBAR-Alstonville remains unbeaten after a 30-23 win over Ballina in the top-of-the-table clash in FNC rugby union.
The win at Quays Reserve, Ballina, on Saturday gives the Pioneers a seven-point buffer at the top, with Byron Bay now only one point behind Ballina in third spot.
Pioneers winger Vinnie Leatigaga proved a threat in attack and defence throughout the game.
He scored an early try and also saved what looked a certain five-pointer with a desperate tackle late in the second half.
Ballina fullback Joe Jansson played courageously and scored to give the Seahorses a 7-5 early lead.
However, Wollongbar found its rhythm and took a 20-13 advantage into the break and had the breeze at their backs in the second half.
Second-rower Josh Herne was among the try-scorers for the visitors and was solid in his starting debut while halfback Justyn Keir also strolled over for a try after they were camped on the Ballina tryline for several minutes.
Ballina five-eighth Grant Knight put in his usual whole-hearted performance over 80 minutes with his final pass putting on a try for winger Zac Allen near the end.
Hooker Nathan Groves and second-rower Josh Lupton battled on through injuries in what was a physical encounter.
Keir and flanker Lloyd Morgan also played well for the Pioneers.
Elsewhere, Bangalow and Lismore City battled out a 38-all draw at Lismore Rugby Park. Bangalow flanker Will Cotterill scored a double against his former club.
Lennox Head is back in the top four after a 47-12 thumping of Casino at Williams Reserve, Lennox Head. The Trojans did the damage in the first half scoring 33 points with Sam Fitzgerald, Jake King and Harry Witt finishing the game with two tries each.
And Byron Bay took maximum points after SCU forfeited.
Lennox Head junior Same Croke wrapped up his campaign with the Australian Under-20 team.
The team finished fifth at the Under-20s world championship with Croke coming off the bench.
FNC RUGBY UNION SCOREBOARD
Wollongbar-Alstonville 30 (Vinnie Leatigaga, Josh Herne, Justyn Keir, James Vidler tries, Sam Kerry 2 conversions, penalty goal, Ben Damen drop goal) d Ballina 23 (Joe Jansson, Zac Allen tries, Grant Knight 2 conversions 3 penalty goals). Half-time: Wollongbar 20-13.
Lismore 38 (Anthony Robinson 2, Dean Wilson 2, Sam Nilon, Ben Hart tries, Zac Hyatt 4 conversions) drew with Bangalow 38 (Tim Mundy 2, Will Cotterill 2, Lewis Jones, Ben Farrow tries, Matt Morgan 4 con-versions). Half-time: Lismore 24-12.
Lennox Head 47 (Jake King 2, Harry Witt 2, Sam Fitzgerald 2, Raymond Stewart tries, Connor Winchester 6 conversions) d Casino 12 (Jacob Dunn, Ben Collison tries, Jacob Dunn conversion). Half-time: 33-12.
Byron Bay d Southern Cross University on forfeit.
Pointscore: Wollongbar-Alstonville 38, Ballina 31, Byron Bay 30, Lennox Head 22, Bangalow 20, Grafton 14, Lismore 10, Casino 5, Southern Cross University 5.
Reserve grade: Ballina 41 d Wollongbar-Alstonville 12, Evans River 44 d Yamba 12, Lennox Head 45 d Casino 29, Murwillumbah 21 d Grafton 19, Lismore 33 d Bangalow 0.
President's Cup: Ballina 24 d Wollongbar-Alstonville 5, Lismore 25 d Kyogle 21, Grafton 41 d Mullumbimby 5.