Two sent off as Mullum wins major semi-final
TWO players were sent off and two were sin-binned in a dramatic Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League major preliminary semi-final in which Mullumbimby prevailed 30-16 over Northern United at Les Donnelly Field, Mullumbimby, yesterday.
United centre Chris Swan was sent off for a spear tackle on Mullum fullback Murray Brown midway through the first half then captain and lock Alwyn Roberts was sent off in the 63rd minute for punching and a head butt.
Both will front the judiciary this week and their spots for the minor semi-final in Lismore against Grafton Ghosts on Saturday could be in doubt.
Mullumbimby captain Andrew Moroney and United second-rower Al McKenzie were sin-binned for high tackles as referee James Hughes clamped down on foul play.
The controversy overshadowed the brilliance of Mullumbimby five-eighth Scott Hogan, who crossed for two tries as the Giants outgunned the Dirawongs up front in a vibrant display by the Mullum forward pack.
However, while the scoreboard suggests a comfortable win by the home side, it was far from it.
With just 10 players on the paddock and eight minutes to go, United staged a remarkable comeback from 20-6 down to get within four points of the Giants, but Hogan put the game to bed with his second try and halfback Troy Johnstone also crossed late.
In a disappointing scene, some of the Dirawongs players left the field with 10 seconds remaining and did not shake the hands of their opponents.
The contrasting reactions of the coaches was predictable.
Mullumbimby mentor Wayne Cullen was proud of his side for their discipline and outstanding scrambling defence, while United coach Chris Binge was impressed with his team's ability to stretch Mullum with 10 players.
Cullen lauded the performance of young referee Hughes, while Binge was ropeable about the officiating.
There is no doubt Hughes' decision to send off two players had a major effect on the outcome, but there was little else he could have done.
Swan, who had made a number of breaks and was playing with great confidence until sent off, up-ended Brown in an ugly tackle after the Mullumbimby fullback had been stopped by four defenders and was going nowhere.
It was a silly act that seemed to be in retaliation for a perceived high shot from Brown on Swan only moments earlier.
Roberts' send-off was also an act off ill-discipline by the Dirawongs captain.
The hard-working lock was hit high by Moroney in a tackle and had been awarded a penalty, but he chose to throw two jabs at his opposing captain then lunged forward with his head.
The contact was hardly devastating and there could be an argument that Hughes should have reprimanded Roberts instead of sending him off. How-ever, Roberts' hot-headed action was unnecessary.
Moroney was sin-binned for the incident and remarkably Northern United still received the penalty.
Five minutes later McKenzie was sin-binned for a high shot and then spectators were treated to a comical scrum where United could produce only a front row and Mullum had five players.
Earlier, Mullum went to a 14-0 half-time lead after tries to Moroney and Hogan and three goals to centre Jay Hampson.
United started their comeback with an early second-half converted try by winger Steve Close but substitute backrower Dwayne Moseley stepped his way over for Mullum's third try which kept the Giants 14 ahead at 20-6.
It wasn't until the 72nd minute that Northern United centre Clarence Kelly cruised over for an unconverted try which brought the scores to 20-10 and then winger Anthony Robinson scored from the next set after some inspired work by hooker Willie Hammond to get the visitors within four points.
With four minutes left there was time for an unlikely United victory, but Hogan's class shone through.
He scored the clincher and was then instrumental in setting up Johnstone's try, along with hooker Scott Gibson, as the Giants ran away with the match and a meeting with Lower Clarence in the major semi-final on Sunday.
The Mullumbimby forward pack of Luke Scott, Dan Molenaar, Jared Flick, Gibson, Moroney and Mitch Morris was outstanding, while United's best was prop Sione Tonga, who proved almost unstoppable at times.
MULLUMBIMBY 30 (Scott Hogan 2, Andrew Moroney, Dwayne Moseley, Troy Johnstone tries; Jay Hampson 5 goals) d NORTHERN UNITED 16 (Steve Close , Clarence Kelly, Anthony Robinson tries; Roy Bell 2 goals). Half-time: Mullumbimby 14-0. Penalties: Mullum 9-4. Referee: James Hughes.
Reserve grade: BALLINA 26 d LOWER CLARENCE 22.
Under-18s: BALLINA 26 d LOWER CLARENCE 22.
Minor semi-finals at Crozier Field, Lismore
First grade: Northern United v Grafton Ghosts
Reserve grade: Lower Clarence v Evans Head
Under-18s: Northern United v Lower Clarence
Major semi-finals at the Maclean Showground
First grade: Lower Clarence v Mullumbimby
Reserve grade: Ballina v Mullumbimby
Under-18s: Ballina v Kyogle