Crash halts Baa Baa's run
By BOB ANTHONY
A CAR accident on the eve of the Coolangatta Tweed and Ballina clash in the Far North Coast rugby union at Coolangatta on Saturday proved to be a telling factor in the home side's 34-8 loss.
Three key Baa Baa players were seriously hurt in the accident at Chinderah, forcing coach Mark Iannelli to make some hasty changes which his first grade side would not recover from.
Backs James Briscoe and Nathan Walker and hooker John Te Moana were all injured on Friday night leaving the Tweed depleted against second-placed Ballina.
The opening stanza was played with semi final intensity with the visitors stretching the Tweed defence repeatedly.
When Baa Baa five-eighth Loui Paikau was sin-binned for a high tackle, Ballina were able to exploit their advantage to open the scoring through winger Jason Richards. The try was converted by Andrew Gorton and Ballina were out to a 7-0 lead.
Tweed replied through a penalty to Todd Heywood to close the gap to 7-3 but that was as close as the home side would get.
It would be a day Paikau would want to forget with a repeated tackle infringement forcing the ref to send him from the field in the 32nd minute.
Down to 14 men, Tweed were pushed and the Ballina backs found gaps to cross before half time and they took a 15-3 lead to the break.
Ballina opened the scoring in the second half and were well in control until replacement back Josh Goddard scored a slashing try to bring the score back to 20-8.
The injury toll for the Baa Baas continued to mount with goalkicking winger Todd Heywood forced from the field with a hamstring.
The day continued to go pear-shaped for Tweed when a penalty try was awarded against Tweed's flankers for spoiling a Ballina scrum right on their tryline.
If matters couldn't have gotten any worse for Tweed, the final insult to injury was the sin-binning of another Tweed player and with just 13 men of the field, Ballina crossed again to take the final score to 34-8.
Tweed coach Mark Iannelli was left to wonder what might have been.
"You can't recover from such a loss of players, we are just lucky that they survived the accident," Iannelli said.
Clearly disappointed with the outcome, Iannelli was greeted with more bad news for the club with flanker Chris Woodley suffering a possible season-ending injury.
The Baa Baas must now call on every player and then some to put teams on the paddock for their last game of the season against Casino next Saturday in Casino.
They remain a shot at the finals but with a bye in the final week, a win next week is a must.
The reserve grade again suffered a heartbreaking loss 12-0 after dominating their match against Ballina.
In other FNC rugby union games, Lismore defeated Wollongbar Alstonville 10-3, Southern Cross Uni downed Lennox Head 35-20 and Yamba edged out Casino 16-15. The points tally after round 16 is Grafton 62, Ballina 45, Casino 39, Coolangatta Tweed 38, Lismore 36, Yamba 35, Wollongbar Alstonville 33, SCU 20, Lennox Head 1. BALLINA - 34 Tries: Andrew Gordon, Trent Gasnier, Jason Richards, Luke Watling, Penalty try. Goals: Andrew Gordon, 3 conversions, penalty goal
COOLANGATTA TWEED -8 Try: Josh Goddard. Goals: Todd Heywood penalty goal.