Why Ballina vs M'bah NRRRL game was 'toughest of the season'
A DETERMINED Ballina has earned a home grand final with a hard-fought 30-20 win over Murwillumbah in Ladbrokes Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League today.
The Seagulls sealed the major semi-final at Ballina yesterday with a 78th-minute try when captain-coach Jamie Lyon pulled up just short of the tryline before handing off to winger Rhys Riches, who managed to get the ball down out wide.
Only minutes earlier winger Zac Beecher scored a try in the corner when the scores were locked 20-all.
It was a double celebration for Beecher, who had just been denied a try when he was ruled to have gone into touch as he was tackled while copping a verbal spray from the Murwillumbah bench.
There was plenty of spite in the game and the Mustangs got the rub of the green in the penalty count.
Ballina front-rower Nick Ritter passed a fitness test on his knee just before kick-off and was placed on report when his opposite number Remi Vignau went down from a stray elbow while attempting a tackle.
Seagulls second-rower Jack Durheim was a standout and he pulled off a try-saving tackle in the corner when it was 20-all which helped put Ballina back on the front foot.
"That was the toughest game of the season and I'll expect the same in the grand final," Lyon said.
"Jack was the best player on the field by a country mile and I think he won the game for us with that tackle.
"If they score there they probably go on with it but we have guys who are fit and young; they just go all day too.
"We love playing here in front of our home crowd and it's a credit to the club to get another grand final with the hard work everyone puts in."
Earlier, it looked like Ballina would cruise into the grand final after taking an 8-0 lead.
However, a string of penalties and back-to-back tries to Murwillumbah fullback Toby McIntosh gave the Mustangs a 12-8 lead before Liam Anderson came off the bench for Ballina.
He made an immediate impact in the middle and put the Seagulls back in front 14-12 when he scored.
Lyon kicked to the Mustangs' corner for his forwards to get a break only for Murwillumbah halfback Kade Hill to run almost the length of the field for a try after the scrum.
The Mustangs led 18-14 at half-time then a try to Michael Dwane gave Ballina an 20-18 lead, soon levelled with a penalty goal. It was there for the taking before the late tries to Ballina.
In other games, Ballina defeated Cudgen 26-20 win over in Under-18s while Tweed Coast downed Murwillumbah 14-6 in reserve grade.
Marist Brothers had a 30-4 win over Casino in ladies league tag.