Simpson saves the day for Seahorses
A LENGTH-of-the-field try to Ballina fullback Luke Simpson snatched a 36-32 win over Byron Bay in Far North Coast rugby union at the Byron Recreation Ground on Saturday.
Ballina had a scrum on their own tryline and were withstanding pressure in the final minutes when Simpson took off, beating numerous defenders on his way to the match-winner.
It was his third try of the game and he also saved one on the Seahorses' tryline in the first half when he dragged down Byron Bay flanker Craig Wilson, who was in the clear.
Centre Tupou Lolohea also provided some special plays while front-rower Isaac Pratten and five-eighth Nick Brydon did the hard yards guiding the team around.
It was a gritty second-half effort from Ballina who were trailing 29-19 after back-to-back tries to Byron Bay straight after the break.
"It could have gone against us in the last 20 minutes but we hung in there and turned it around,” Ballina coach Andrew Fraser said.
"It wasn't pretty but we got the result after a pretty tight tussle.
"We try to play to structure but we have guys who love to attack and Luke Simpson has that ability to win games.
"He showed his class at the end there with that try and Nick (Brydon) got us out of trouble a few times, he's been around a while now and I thought he played well.”
Ballina started well and were up 12-0 after tries to Lolohea and Simpson.
Byron Bay were up for the fight and responded with back-to-back tries to returning centre Sean Nichol, taking them to a 14-12 lead.
Simpson scored from the back of a scrum play to take back the lead before a try to Byron Bay winger Erik Duig-Rademacher levelled it up at 19-all just before half-time.
Duig-Rademacher finished the game with a try-scoring double while Lolohea also bagged his second try late in the game.
"Byron are very good team and I think they'll be there at the end of the season,” Fraser said.
"They played with a fair of enterprise and we respect that. We were just fortunate effort to get them at the end.”
In other games, defending premiers Wollongbar-Alstonville overcame Casuarina 26-22 in the top-of-the-table clash at Casuarina.
It is a double blow for the previously undefeated Casuarina, who have also lost competition points for fielding an unregistered player against Lismore the previous weekend.
Elsewhere, Lennox Head celebrated their 20-year anniversary with a 43-17 win over Lismore at Williams Reserve, Lennox Head.
Grafton were too good at home for Southern Cross University in a 33-7 win . The game between Casino and Bangalow at Albert Park was postponed.
Wollongbar Alstonville 26 (Sam Kerry, Ben Damen, Josh Galbraith, Brandon Whitney tries, Sam Kerry 3 conversions) d Casuarina Beach 22 (Timoci Rokosuka, Webb Lillis, Richard White tries, Michael Coates 2 conversions, penalty goal)
Half time: Wollongbar 21-Casuarina 19
Grafton 33 (Dwayne Duke 2, penalty try, Luke Worthing, Jake Harris tries, Luke Worthing 3 conversions) d Southern Cross University 7 (Johnson Porykali try, Will Hawkins conversion)
Half time: Grafton 21-SCU 0
Lennox Head 43 (Martin McNamara 2, Hugo Marks, Billy Goldsmith, Hayden Blair, Angus Langfield, John Clark tries, Hugo Marks 4 conversions) d Lismore 17 (Brenden Williams, Jack Everingham, Marcus Hannaway tries, James Grubb conversion)
Half time: Lennox 31-Lismore 12
Ballina 36 (Luke Simpson 3, Tupou Lolohea 2, Beau Clarke, tries, Terry Ferguson 2, Luke Simpson conversions) d Byron Bay 32 (Sean Nicholl 2, Erik Rademacher 2, Jascha Saeck tries, Peter Gillespie 2 conversions, Tom Brooks penalty goal)
Half time: Byron 19-Ballina 19
Point Score - Wollongbar 35, Lennox Head 30, Casuarina 29, Ballina 26, Grafton 22, Byron Bay 19, Casino 13, Bangalow 9, SCU 5, Lismore 5
Grafton 30 d Southern Cross University 0
Lennox Head 30 d Lismore 0
Casuarina 29 d Wollongbar 12
Byron Bay 25 d Ballina 7
Grafton 30 d SCU 0
Yamba 29 d Tenterfield 12
Kyogle 29 d Grafton 14
Evans River 49 d Iluka 14
Ballina v Casino at Quays Reserve, Ballina
Wollongbar-Alstonville v Lennox Head at Lyle Park, Wollongbar
Lismore v Southern Cross University at Lismore Rugby Park
Bangalow v Grafton Redmen at Scultz Oval, Bangalow
Byron Bay v Casuarina (venue to be confirmed)