Seahorses bounce back to deliver blow to Roosters
By GREG WHITE
THE 'king' is back in his castle and domineering as ever.
Two weeks after being grounded for 'disciplinary reasons' Woolgoolga's footballing king Arthur Murray made a triumphant comeback to centre stage yesterday, orchestrating the Seahorses' emphatic 49-18 win over Nambucca Heads at the Sports Reserve.
It was a stunning return to form by the one-time premiership favourites forced to fend off a grand final-style challenge from the visitors in the opening session.
"There are still lots of areas needing attention but it was fantastic to finally get back on track," captain-coach John Cross remarked.
"Defence was again a key ingredient and once we had that under control we proved again we know how to score lots of points."
With their whole season on the line the Roosters played like men inspired - for the first 62 minutes - but then they blinked and wheels fell off.
Their handling, almost perfect to that point began to crumble, replacement Steven Spencer was sin-binned by referee Rick Purton, then star prop Kale Burton was dismissed following allegations he'd used foul language to touch judge David Dunn, an accusation he later vehemently denied.
"You wouldn't credit that much going so wrong so quickly," shattered Roosters boss Geoff Batten said.
"Even when we trailed 24-12 I thought we were building up to something and I reckon Woopi sensed it as well.
"But it just all fell to pieces in the worst possible way."
Nambucca's woes were the signal for the mercurial Murray to step his scheming ways up a gear.
While his timing with the ball in hand had been impeccable already, some of his creative feeds to support players in the dying stages were mindblowing.
One pass in front of the line for Blake Seymour's second try seemed to hang in the air forever before the hand off was finally given.
Most players would have been swamped by the defence but Murray made it look like child's play.
"We have to keep the momentum rolling now we're back in business," Cross said happily before heading off to celebrate with his troops.
As for rival Batten, the evergreen centre is refusing to crumble in the face of the improbable dream of making the semis.
"We must beat Port and hope other results do us a favour," he said grimly.
"I won't give up hope till it's certain we can't go any further."
The Burton send-off has created an unexpected complication in the young forward's future plans.
Due to fly south later today to discuss a contract with the Melbourne Storm club president Anthony Field said an approach would be made to have the judiciary hearing deferred until later in the week.
IMPACT POINT - In the 62nd minute with Nambucca Heads pouring pressure on the Seahorses line they dropped the ball.
Expecting the referee's whistle to blast the Roosters hesitated but Jamie Rook chanced his arm, swooped on the pigskin and took off on the 100m dash to the opposite end.
Warwick Jones missed with a diving tackle on half way and once the try was awarded there were no second chances for the visitors.
SUPPORTERS SNAPSHOTS - "I read a preview that said we'd win by the width of a cigarette paper. Ever tried to roll a smoke with the weekend Sydney Morning Herald?" - Peter Brown, Woolgoolga.
"That's been close to the toughest bloody day I've had all year." - Russell Fensom, Nambucca Heads.