AFTER twice surrendering what should have been a decisive advantage, Coffs Harbour held on to beat Grafton 36-28 in a tough meeting at Geoff King Motors Oval.
Take out the freakish last try to John Oakes and the Comets would have only just fallen over the line despite being arguably the more polished performers on the day.
Forget the three soft tries the Ghosts allowed in the first half through being flat-footed on their try line and the competition points might have been coming their way.
What gave Coffs an edge was the ability to run straight lines in attack, thus taking the contest right up into the faces of their opponents.
Had they tried evasive tactics and run across field, Grafton's slightly more organised defence would probably have caught them out.
Overall, there were so many maybes to come out of this afternoon of football it's possible the return bout at Frank McGuren Field on July 5 still won't be enough to sort out which is more likely to go further this year.
"I think mostly we stuck to structure really well but other times got ahead of ourselves as to where we were in the game," Comets' boss Colin Speed remarked.
"Against good sides like Grafton you have to take the game right up to them.
"We got away and then twice gave them a sniff and it cost us dearly.
"Our two big first half errors got them back into the game and in the second half they pushed right back at us.
"I always knew Ghosts would go the full 80 minutes and wasn't surprised how close it got.
"You've always got to be wary of that."
Grafton's Ben McLennan was feeling frustrated as he left the field and no wonder.
His outside men had caught the Comets on the fringes with winger Mitch Gorman bagging four tries.
But the home side made them pay dearly for every mistake and that proved critical.
"We didn't stick to our structure and Coffs capitalised," McLennan said.
"In the first half we got stuck in third gear.
"When we needed to ramp it up, we didn't.
"Speedy had his boys just a little bit better drilled than us and it counted."
COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 36 (Peter Irwin, Kerrod Selmes, Sam Myles, Abel Lefaoseu, Miles Fairbank, Shayde Perham, John Oakes tries; Nathan Curry 4 goals) def GRAFTON GHOSTS 28 (Mitch Gorman 4, Matt Muller tries; Matt Muller 4 goals)