Mar­lins pipped in a thriller

Grafton de­feat the home side and ti­tle-hold­ers by a one-point mar­gin

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - SPORT - BRAD GREEN­SHIELDS­shields@coff­s­coas­tad­vo­

GRAFTON pro­duced a match-winning play in the shad­ows of full-time to stop the SCU Mar­lins start­ing their MNC Rugby ti­tle de­fence with a win.

The Mar­lins held the lead late on home soil but Grafton were able to cross the line af­ter a 20-me­tre pass from Paul Cameron found Ed McGrath in space. McGrath, in turn, passed to Kar­rnunny Pearce who found the chalk to send­ing Red­men fans into rap­tures.

Missing some key play­ers and play­ing their first match of the sea­son, there’s plenty of room for im­prove­ment for the reigning pre­mier.

Grafton have now won their open­ing two matches of the sea­son prov­ing they will be a force in 2018.

For the Coffs Snap­pers, their match at Port Mac­quarie was in­deed a tale of two halves.

The Snap­pers dom­i­nated the open­ing half to take a de­ci­sive 21-3 lead into the break. It proved to be just enough.

While the Coffs team dom­i­nated the open­ing ex­changes af­ter the re­sump­tion, the Snap­pers were un­able to turn a glut of pos­ses­sion into a match-seal­ing try.

Buoyed by their de­fen­sive ef­fort, the Pi­rates be­gan to turn an arm-wres­tle their way and were able to score three tries in quick suc­ces­sion.

The score­line be­came 28-24 and the Snap­pers were forced to dig deep late to main­tain their un­beaten start to the sea­son.

For Pi­rates coach Nigel Hurl­ston, it was a case of so near yet so far.

“An­other five min­utes we’d prob­a­bly have snatched a win,” he said.

The Snap­pers face an­other trip to Port Mac­quarie this week­end to meet peren­nial MNC Rugby pow­er­house Hast­ings Val­ley.

The Pi­rates drive north up the Pa­cific Hwy to meet the Mar­lins.

Photo: Rachel Ver­coe

CLOSE: The SCU Mar­lins lost their open­ing match of the MNC Rugby sea­son in a nail­biter.

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