Power outage puts a stop to Mustangs
THE Grafton Rhinos have fought their way to an 'ugly' 32-28 win over the Murwillumbah Mustangs in the pitch black of night at McKittrick Park on Saturday.
Six points down with only 10 minutes played in the second half, the Rhinos players were looking second best in the contest and bereft of ideas when the lights went out and left the McKittrick field in complete darkness.
However, the break seemed to spark the Rhinos to life.
When the two squads returned from the dressing rooms, the Rhinos clawed their way back to pinch the two vital NRRRL competition points.
“Ugly, very ugly,” Rhinos captain/coach Xavier Sullivan said.
“We just went away from everything we have worked on in the last few weeks.
“But we'll take the two points.”
The first half was a scrappy affair as both sides gave away cheap penalties and fumbled routine passes.
The Rhinos were the first to break through, with magician Ray Mercy providing a moment of individual brilliance by picking the ball up on the half-way line, running 20 metres around the defence and dashing to the line.
The Rhinos were on the attack again with Ben Woods when, frustrated by the close marking of the Mustangs defenders, he lashed out with his elbow and was promptly sent off by the referee.
The Mustangs found their stride after the sending off, but against a weakened opponent, could only cross once through Simon Booth's easy run to the line from dummy half.
The Rhinos players were finding it hard to contain the Mustangs. But with Woods returning to the field of play, Steve Kirby celebrated by finishing off a nice backline movement.
The Mustangs immediately countered and once again the Rhinos failed to mark the man playing the ball, with Booth profiteering a second time from the Rhinos slack defence.
The second stanza started the way the first finished, with the Mustangs controlling the ball, the tempo and the scoreboard.
After a glut of possession, the Mustangs finally converted its dominance into points with Mustangs full-back, Victor Akiba, gathering his own grubber to stretch the lead to 10-16.
With goal kicker Craig Lilly lining up the conversion, the field was plunged into darkness and the game was delayed by 20 minutes.
As furious Rhinos officials hurried to fix the problem, Sullivan was using the time to his advantage.
“It definitely worked in our favour, stopped their momentum,” he said.In the other shed, Mustangs first grade coach, Brad Purtell, was trying to keep his squad in a 'positive' frame of mind.
“I just told the boys to stay positive and get back out there,” he said.
“I said 'we have to be the first team to score' and I guess we weren't, so we were behind the eight ball straight away.
“It gave them time to work out where they were going wrong.”
With the lights back to capacity, the Rhinos slowly worked their way back into the match.
And after a number of repeat sets of six, Kirby crossed for his double and the margin was back to two for Grafton.
Kirby then capped off his hat-trick after Josh Nagle charged-down a Mustangs down field punt, and the lead was back with the home team.
However, the party was soon quelled and the scores levelled, when Asly Turner scored after a strong break from the impressive Akiba.
The Rhinos grabbed the lead for the third and final time when Kirby, ran at the defence before sending a flat pass for Woods to atone for his earlier indiscretion.
Luke Worthing then made the game safe after Todd Cameron and Mercy combined to give the winger a free stroll to the line.