Bad start costs Raiders
A SECOND-half try-scoring feast was not enough to give the Tweed Coast Raiders victory in their Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League major semi-final showdown with Ballina at Bogangar yesterday.
Trailing 26-8 at the break, the Raiders stormed home in the second half, scoring six tries to two but their efforts were in vain as Seagulls, forced to play a man down for 70 minutes after lock Paul King was sent off for a high tackle, held on to win 38-34.
"We didn't get off to a great start and that cost us," Raiders captain-coach Nathan Jordan said.
"We played well in the second half but we couldn't run them down. "We just gave them too much of a lead.
"You can't expect to be down like that and still win."
Despite their horror start, the Raiders led 34-32 with three minutes remaining and looked likely to grab victory but their hopes were dashed by Ballina rookie Matt Hundy.
Hundy, playing his first A Grade match, made the most of some good work by the inside backs to cross out wide and level the scores. Sharp-shooting centre Andrew Batese landed the conversion to seal the win.
"They really blew us off the park in the second-half," Ballina president Bill Wilson said.
"We only had two sets of six for the first 20 minutes of the second-half. They just held onto it. "It was just a really gutsy performance from our team." Raiders, who finished the regular season in second spot will take on Marist Brothers in the elimination final next weekend.
Ballina will line up against minor premiers Mullumbimby in the preliminary final with the winner assured a place in the grand final.
Jordan said the Raiders, playing just their second season in the top grade since returning to senior football, would need to improve against Brothers.
"We have one game left if we are going to stay in the finals so we will really have to concentrate on getting a better start," he said.
"Marist Brothers will be very hard."
Poor kicking proved costly for the Raiders yesterday with Curtis Finn and Adam Atkins converting a combined three goals from seven attempts. By contrast, Batese landed seven goals from eight attempts. "We made mistakes at crucial times," Jordan said.
"We probably bombed two tries in the first half and couldn't kick back in time."
The Raiders centre pairing of Curtis Finn and Scott Ella ran in two tries each while Joe Coyne, Dane Heron and Buddy King also scored tries. BALLINA 38 (J Quinn (2), W Hammond (2), L Flannery, M Hundy tries; Andrew Batese (7) goals) TWEED COAST 34 (C Finn (2), S Ella (2), J Coyne, D Heron, B King tries; C Finn (2), A Atkins goals)