Seagulls break 20-year drought with grand final win
BALLINA has broken a 20-year premiership drought with a hard-fought 30-24 win against Murwillumbah in the Novaskill Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final.
The Seagulls were made to work for it after trailing 12-0 early in the first half at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.
Props Dylan Montgomery and Greg Ryan were the standouts and created plenty of try-scoring opportunities off the back of their metres.
Hundreds of Seagulls supporters stormed the field as the fulltime siren sounded with second-rower Dan Gibson receiving plenty of praise for his herculean effort in defence.
"It's taken us a long time but we've finally got it," Ballina coach Greg Barnes said.
"We haven't lost a game since May 12 and I knew it was going to kick on from there.
"It was such a big effort, a lot of other teams wouldn't be able to come back from 12-0 down against Murwillumbah especially in a grand final."
A penalty goal to hooker Andrew Battese saw the Seagulls square it up 12-all right on halftime.
Winger Anthony Colman was brilliant for Ballina and scored his second of the afternoon soon after the break to give his side a 16-12 lead.
Lock Kane Montgomery was a machine in defence and scored a crucial try under the cross bar to give the Seagulls a 10-point buffer.
Murwillumbah weren't going away and forced themselves back into it with a try to front-rower Lynden Murphy.
Ballina centre Luke Simpson went close to scoring a 70m try minutes later before he was cut down just short of the line in a massive effort from lock Wise Kativerata.
The Murwillumbah defence was shot to pieces and Simpson had the presence of mind to find enough space out wide for a try later in the set.
Trailing 26-18 the Mustangs tried a short kick-off and scored in the 71st minute to reduce the margin to two setting up a nail-biting finish.
A strong surge from Montgomery paved the way for Brian Kelly to score with three minutes remaining.
"Everyone put in and we've shown in the last 6 weeks that you have to be a really good side to beat us," Barnes said.
"It's been a lot of hard work in the last two years and this hasn't really sunk in yet."
Earlier it was a double celebration for Marist Brothers with wins in the under-18s and reserve grade grand finals.
Brothers had a convincing 28-12 win in under-18s and a thrilling 26-22 win in golden point extra-time in reserve grade.