Byron Bay front-rower Kyle Kennedy carts the ball forward against Ballina in NRRRL on Sunday.
Byron Bay front-rower Kyle Kennedy carts the ball forward against Ballina in NRRRL on Sunday. Ursula Bentley@CapturedAus

Tight finish at the top in NRRRL

SPORTS editor Mitchell Craig fell just short of tipping the top five that will play semi-finals in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League this year.

Ballina, Casino, Cudgen, Murwillumbah and Tweed Coast have qualified while Byron Bay has missed out.

Making bold predictions about where teams will finish in March is never easy, with fourth and fifth spot only decided in the final round on Sunday.

A 24-all draw between Cudgen and Tweed Coast saw them take the final spots while Byron Bay dropped out from fourth on points differential.

Despite losing a handful of players after the grand final last year, Ballina were always in the driver's seat this season.

They recruited well and are now only one win away from securing a home grand final for the sixth time since 2013.

Murwillumbah were going to be up there this season having kept most of its squad together over the past few seasons.

Casino is back in the finals after missing out last year and have found a new level of consistency under captain-coach Roy Bell.

They have only lost two games at home and should be able to give the semi-finals a shake from third.

Cudgen were resilient this season and closed out some narrow wins late in the year with key players sitting on the sideline with injuries.

Tweed Coast have scraped in at fifth after winning the grand final for the first time last year.

Byron Bay was unlucky to miss out and a midseason injury to star signing Todd Carney did not help their cause.

The Red Devils were also restricted by a player points system, which they did not have enough depth to cover.

Elsewhere, Kyogle started well but a midseason slump where they lost five straight games in the midst of an injury crisis brought them undone.

Northern United was in a similar boat where the gap between its best and worst performance was too much for a team with finals aspirations.

Mullumbimby suffered early season injuries and never really got going while Marist Brothers went through a rebuild after losing most of its first grade team.

Evans Head was also in a major rebuild around youth and won its first game of the season on Sunday to finish on a high note.

at a glance

Mitch's predicted ladder in March:

Ballina

Murwillumbah

Byron Bay

Tweed Coast

Casino

Cudgen

Mullumbimby

Marist Brothers

Northern United

Kyogle

Evans Head

Where they finished on Sunday:

Ballina 32

Murwillumbah 28

Casino 28

Cudgen 22

Tweed Coast 21

Byron Bay 21

Kyogle 20

Northern United 16

Mullumbimby 12

Marist Brothers 10

Evans Head 6



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