A SIMPLE penalty from in front by the inspirational Luke Covell steered the Murwillumbah Mustangs to a thrilling 27-26 victory over defending premiers Grafton Ghosts in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League first grade grand final at Stan Sercombe Oval on Sunday.
The Mustangs trailed 26-25 and were attacking the Ghosts tryline when five-eighth Matt Goodfellow chipped into the in-goal area and prepared to give chase.
However a Ghosts defender barrelled him over and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty for a late tackle.
It was a bitter defeat for the Ghosts and their supporters - earlier on the program they witnessed their under 18 side lose 22-24 to Mullumbimby and the reserves also going down to the Giants, 18-16.
The first grade fixture capped a wonderful afternoon's football - it had the lot, rugged defence, classy tries and a see-sawing score line which ensured no one left the ground until the referee called "time gentlemen, please".
The Mustangs opened the scoring in the first minute after fullback Dylan Smith won the race to the ball after a Goodfellow chip in-goal.
Grafton drew level 14 minutes later and then took a 12-6 lead when Sam Lennon barged over and Ryan Danvers again converted.
Mustangs levelled the scores eight minutes after the resumption when rampaging Tim James crashed over near the posts to give Covell a simple conversion.
They were in again five minutes later after another Goodfellow kick rebounded off a defender's hands into the grateful arms of Damien Quinn who dived over beside the posts - another easy conversion for Covell.
Grafton again drew level 18-18 when Sam Hartmann ran onto a long pass and crossed in the corner - Danvers sneaking the ball inside the left upright on his conversion attempt.
Midway through the half, James made a penetrating run before offloading to Lionel Foster who carried several tacklers over out wide - Mustangs 24-19 after another Covell conversion.
Three minutes on, Goodfellow snapped a simple field goal for the Mustangs to lead 25-18 which meant the Ghosts needed to score twice.
And that they did.
Dan Roberts charged down a kick which rebounded towards the Mustangs tryline and he clearly won the race to touch down under the posts.
Danvers' conversion made it 25-24 in favour of the Mustangs but in the 74th minute Danvers landed a great 40m penalty attempt for the hosts to get their noses in front.
The Mustangs did a wonderful job to get play up near the Ghosts tryline which enabled Goodfellow to make the kick which won it for his team.
Goodfellow was deservedly the NRRRL man of the match but he was given able support by every member every one of his team-mates.
Special mention in despatches for reliable custodian Dylan Smith, Covell, Damien Quinn, James and Lynden Murphy.
Best for the Ghosts - and probably the best man on the ground - was tall second rower Ryan Danvers who was almost impossible to prevent offloading after a rampaging run, Dan Roberts, Ben McLennan and slick centre Aaron Taylor who had a mighty first half.