Tight win puts Trojans in rugby union Grand Final
A PENALTY goal from Lennox Head five-eighth Adam Gordon snatched a 24-22 win over Lismore in the Far North Coast Rugby Union preliminary final on Saturday.
The result means the Trojans are through to the grand final for the fifth time in six years, while reigning premiers Lismore are out of the finals race.
Captain Benn Wright led the way for Lennox Head, bagging a try-scoring double while Gordon slotted four penalty goals at Crozier Field, Lismore.
"We're a young team and we're still improving every week," Lennox Head coach Jason McCombie said.
"We took the penalty goals when they were on offer and I'm really happy for the boys."
Second-rower Jack Bungate is the only injury concern for Lennox after he was forced from the field early in the second half with a neck injury
Bungate also plays front-row and if unavailable the Trojans would expect to receive the same special dispensation that Wollongbar-Alstonville have had throughout the finals.
The Pioneers have been allowed to use hooker Lloyd Morgan, despite him only playing four games in the competition rounds instead of the required six needed to qualify for finals.
Morgan was deemed eligible to play because of injuries to other front-rowers at the club.
Lennox Head had a front-rower knocked back when they asked for similar dispensation leading into the semi-finals.
Wollongbar were also allowed to have front-rower Chris Gibbons play in the second-grade finals under the same ruling, despite him only playing one game in that grade during the season. He even started in the second-grade preliminary final while another prop that had been in reserve grade all season sat on the bench.
"Wollongbar will be red-hot favourites and they deserve to be," McCombie said. "We're definitely looking forward to the challenge though."
In other games, Wollongbar did enough to beat Ballina 31-23 in farcical circumstances in the reserve grade preliminary final.
Two Ballina players were forced to settle for water boy duties after Zone officials ruled they were ineligible to take the field.
They were deemed to be first-grade players under the new rules after filling in for injured players a couple of times throughout the season.
Despite playing the majority of the season in reserve grade, the Ballina players could not be cleared even with an appeal during the week.
To add further salt to the wounds, Wollongbar were captained by a player that spent half the season in first grade with a handful of other players that could have been rubbed out under the same rule.
The Ballina team could only settle on a starting side 30 minutes before kick-off and deserved better from the zone administration.
First Grade: Lennox Head 24 (Benn Wright 2 tries, Adam Gordon conversion, 4 penalty goals) d Lismore 22 (Angus MacDougall, Ted Pye, Damien Keys tries, Matt Bermingham 2 conversions, penalty goal). Half-time: Lennox 16 - Lismore 12
Reserve Grade: Wollongbar-Alstonville 31 (Joe Lee, Tim Irwin, Ray Nean, Josh Damen tries, Tom Steer 4 conversions, penalty goal) d Ballina 23 (Rick Randall 2, Joel McElroy tries, Josh Cameron conversion 2 penalty goals). Half-time: Wollongbar 14 - Ballina 6
President's Cup: Evans River 44 (Luke Cleaver 2, Angus Feil 2, Grant Cleaver 2, Anthony Robinson tries, Luke Cleaver conversion, penalty goal, Adam Armistead 2 conversions) d Grafton 13 (Justin Brown, try, Keaton Ingram conversion, 2 penalty goals). Half-time: Evans 12 - Grafton 6
Under 18s: Wollongbar-Alstonville 23 (Mitch O'Brien, Jaiden Reginato, Daniel Salgram tries, Sam Kerry conversions, 2 penalty goals) d Ballina 22 (Eric Hickling, James Newstead, Mark Binge tries, Eric Hickling 2 conversions, penalty goal). Half-time: Ballina 12 - Wollongbar 5