Seagulls snatch semis win
AN 80-metre individual try from Ballina fullback Brett Kelly helped sealed a 26-10 win over Grafton Ghosts in the Novaskill Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League qualifying semi-final at Kingsford Smith Park.
The Seagulls were forced to play the final 24 minutes of yesterday's match with 12 men after centre Clarence Kelly was sent off for the second week in a row.
Kelly was ruled to have put his opposite number Sam Hartmann in a dangerous position when he lifted him in a tackle.
Hartmann looked like he might have suffered a serious injury but he regained his feet after Kelly was sent off.
He played the rest of the game while Kelly was forced to watch from the sidelines.
"It was no surprise that as soon as Clarence got sent off the bloke jumped straight up," Ballina coach Greg Barnes said.
"I think Grafton milked that quite well, they were in the ref's ear all day.
"Once again our defence and fitness got us home."
There was no love lost on the field and Grafton second-rower Ryan Danvers gave the referee no choice but to send him to the sin bin when he gave away three consecutive penalties for high tackles and an alleged elbow.
Ballina hooker Andrew Battese was outstanding from the kick-off and nailed two penalty goals to help his side to a healthy 20-4 lead early in the second half.
The Seagulls were forced to dig deep after Kelly was sent off with props Greg Ryan and Dylan Montgomery leading the way.
Grafton captain-coach Ryan Farrell was disappointed with his team's performance and the Kelly tackle.
"Our judiciary system is pretty poor and I'm sure he'll get off," Farrell said.
"He'll find some way to avoid it, he always does.
"Full credit to Ballina though, they deserved the win and will be hard to stop."
It doesn't look good for Grafton winger Joel Moss who was carried from the field near the end with what looked like an ankle injury.
Earlier, Ballina had the best possible start with tries to Luke Simpson and Battese giving them a 10-0 lead.
Halfback Nikko Roberts was instrumental throughout and put winger Brian Kelly over just before the break to give the Seagulls a 16-4 lead at half-time.
Ballina is now one win away from hosting the NRRRL grand final next month and will take on Murwillumbah in the major semi-final at Stan Sercombe Oval on Sunday.
In other games, Marist Brothers five-eighth John Campbell bagged a double in a 32-6 win against Grafton Ghosts in reserve grade.
Hooker Sam Wotherspoon and prop Mick McLelland were standouts for the Rams.
Earlier, Brothers halfback Jacob Follent showed his class guiding the Rams to a 32-18 win in under-18s.
Follent scored two tries and slotted four conversions.
Centres Jacob Rose and Nick De Guisti were among the try-scorers for the Rams.
Ballina 26 (L Simpson, A Battese, Brian Kelly, Brett Kelly tries; Battese 5 goals) d Grafton Ghosts 10 (D Lollback, A Hartmann tries; J Lennon goal)