Bones crunched and rattled in bruising finals clash
RUGBY LEAGUE: It will be long week in the recovery rooms for the Grafton Ghosts and Coffs Harbour Comets after both sides left it all on the field in a bruising qualifying final.
Neither side was willing to give an inch to their opponents, with bone-rattling tackles and cracking collisions a regular feature at Frank McGuren Field.
After eighty minutes of a gripping contest, the only thing that could separate the two bitter rivals was a Nathan Curry goal kick in the dying minutes.
There was plenty of emotion in the contest with the sides coming to blows on several occasions throughout the clash and three players spending time in the sin bin.
Leading Group 2 referee Nathan Grace had the whistle to his lips for most of the clash, with a heightened penalty count coming out of the clash.
Grafton Ghosts' first grade team manager Joe Kinnane believed the referee did not handle the emotion in the clash the best which tarnished what was a classic match.
"There is a lot of feeling between the two clubs and I believe the man in the middle did not handle it very well out there," Kinnane said.
"The thing that I took from it was that the man in the middle lost control, and as a consequence the games suffered.
"It was a great game, there was only two points in it. It just shows they are two very evenly matched sides."
The win for the Comets brought an end to an 11-match win streak for the Ghosts, but Kinnane said that will not weigh on the Ghosts mind as they aim to bounce back at home next weekend.
"We will have a look at the video on Tuesday, identify where we went wrong and work out what we need to change for next week because we want another crack at these Comets," he said.
"We have to get our discipline right with the backchatting, but there were a few soft penalties there. No sour grapes for us, congratulations to Coffs Harbour. They're there and we're not, but we will be back."
A journey to the Rebels fortress at McKittrick Park awaits the victorious Coffs Harbour side and coach Kerrod Selmes cannot wait for the contest.
Selmes was lucky to leave Grafton with fingernails left on his hand thanks to his Comets charges leaving it to the last seconds to snatch back victory.
"She went right down the wire, but I was always confident of our chances," Selmes said. "Thinking back to the first game of the season, the Ghosts had us down 22-nil here.
"I know we have a good second half in us, and we finish strong, we just need to start games better.
"I just knew if we played to our potential that we could win. Full credit to the Ghostsies, it was a good game."
And now with Rebels in his crosshairs, the Comets coach believes he has the side to beat heading into the major semi-final.
"It is a bit of a hard one, we obviously like going there because they are the benchmark of the competition and I think on our day we can stick it to them."