By Hugh Kearney
MURWILLUMBAH Mustangs tackled their way into a home grand final when they trounced the Cudgen Hornets in the major semi-final of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League at Murwillumbah yesterday.
On the back of a 9-2 penalty count advantage, the Mustangs blunted almost every Cudgen attacking move to virtually put the result beyond question by the half-time break.
Murwillumbah went on to eventually win with a five tries to one margin.
Cudgen started the game badly when winger Damien Perry put his foot into touch after taking the kick-off.
From the ensuing possession Murwillumbah hooker Ben White crossed for the opening try out wide.
Ryan Murphy was unable to convert but Mustangs led 4-0.
A series of penalties for tackle and 10-metre infringements saw Cudgen on the backfoot as Mustangs attacked.
A converted penalty gave the Mustangs a 6-0 lead, then at the 18-minute mark a high bomb heading for the Cudgen in-goal rebounded off the goal post where Mustangs interchange player Steve Darby collected the ball and crossed unopposed.
Murphy converted for a 12-0 Mustangs lead.
Murwillumbah's relentless defence continued to dominate proceedings.
In the 22nd minute, half Matt Harley swooped on a dropped Cudgen pass, beat one player and scored 12 metres out.
Murphy converted and Murwillumbah led 18-0.
Cudgen were put under more pressure after 27 minutes when big forward Joe Tuala was given 10 minutes in the sin bin for a deliberate forearm on Mustangs centre Jason Willis.
With Tuala off the field, Cudgen blew two almost-certain tries losing the ball near, or over the line.
With just two minutes to go in the first-half Murwillumbah struck again.
A kick by five-eighth Gary Dowling rebounded off a Cudgen player and was recovered by Robert Reid.
Quick passing to the right flank saw replacement winger Richard Arrowsmith cross in the corner.
Murphy converted from the sideline and Murwillumbah took a 24-0 lead into the half-time break.
Cudgen started the second-half better, but again blew a certain try just two minutes in.
The Hornets were finally on the board five minutes later when interchange player Beau Buckley backed-up a break by Dan Donovan to score, Damien Perry converted to make the score 24-6.
A penalty boosted Murwillumbah's lead to 26-6.
The Mustangs were in again when after 20 minutes when Steve Darby broke through some flimsy defence midfield and found winger Ryan Murphy in support.
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