WOLLONGBAR-Alstonville has won a fourth straight premiership after a hard fought 39-29 win over Balllina in the Far North Coast rugby union grand final at Crozier Field, Lismore.
Pioneers centre Nathaniel Regueira sealed the win with a runaway try under the crossbar in the final minutes when the Seahorses were making a late charge.
Flanker Hamish Mould finished the game with a try-scoring double while second-rowers Steve Mison and Matt Scott were outstanding.
Coach John Jenkins was struggling to find the words to describe the win after being at the helm for all four grand final wins.
"It's pretty hard to achieve what we've done and we've had a lot of changes in personnel over this period,” Jenkins said.
"We have a great junior base and it can be tough to keep the momentum going but the boys have done a great job.
"That try from Nat (Regueira) a few minutes before the end was vital because Ballina had their ears pinned back and were giving us some grief.
"The pleasing thing is we had one English import on the wing this year and the rest are all local juniors.”
The Pioneers came out of the blocks firing and took a 14-0 lead with tries to flanker Vaughan Sandral and Mould.
Ballina five-eighth Grant Knight worked himself into the game to set up a try and scored one of his own under the cross-bar to narrow the margin to 14-12.
Wollongbar winger George Toomey scored a try just before the break to give the Pioneers some breathing room with a 21-12 lead.
It was game on when Ballina scored back-to-back tries at 32-29 before Regueira pounced on a loose ball for the runaway try at the end.
"Ballina just kept coming at us and we didn't create enough pressure at times,” Jenkins said.
"Grant (Knight) exploited some weaknesses but we responded well.
"We wanted to play direct without getting too fancy and we opened ourselves up with some forced passed.
"If i had to put my hand on my heart and pick a player out from today I'd have to go with Steve Mison.
"He's a week-to-week proposition sometimes with injuries but he really stood up.”
Wollongbar Alstonville 39 (Hamish Mould 2, Vaughan Sandral, George Toomey, Nat Regueira tries, Sam Kerry 4 conversions, 2 penalty goals) d Ballina 29 (Ben Johnston, Grant Knight, Rick Randall, Brett Johnston, Josh Lupton tries, Mitch Knight 2 conversions)
Half Time: Wollongbar 21 - Ballina 12
Ballina 18 (Nick Brydon, Sam Norris tries, Nick Brydon conversion, 2 penalty goals) d Mullumbimby 17 (Rhys Daniels, Darcy Stephens tries, Nathan Nicholls 2 conversions, penalty goal)
Half Time: Mullumbimby 10 - Ballina 3
Evans River 19 (Connor Thornley try, Michael Miskle conversion, 4 penalty goals) d Yamba 10 (Jordan Walker try, Jason James conversion, penalty goal)
Half Time: Yamba 10 - Evans River 9