NEW TOP DOG: Comets pump Grafton Ghosts in statement win
RUGBY LEAGUE: A big crowd at Geoff King Motors Oval on Sunday afternoon witnessed two heavyweights enter the ring and it was the Coffs Harbour Comets who landed the knockout blow.
Taking on the Grafton Ghosts in the biggest game of the regular season, the winner would walk away top of the table and most likely secure the minor premiership for 2019.
The Comets were the first team to cross the stripe when winger Billy Griffiths scored out wide, though the try was called back for an obstruction penalty.
The game then fell into a 15 minute arm wrestle, with no errors or penalties as the two top teams entered a war of attrition.
It was the Comets who cracked first after spilling a ball in their own 20, though Grafton weren't able to capitalise on their opportunity.
With 10 minutes to go in the first half a short side play by the Ghosts saw centre Dylan Collett put Mitchell Lollback away down the sideline.
Lollback was able to get a pass away back into Collett who grubbered for himself and regathered, but some desperate Comets defence held him up over the line.
With the teams looking destined to be deadlocked at the break, Comets big man Matt Cheeseman brought the home crowd to life as he rampaged through the Grafton defence for the opening try three minutes before the siren.
Though incredibly the Ghosts managed to level the score before halftime, with captain Danny Wicks barging over on the final play of the first half.
Early in the second stanza it was once again Cheeseman who made the difference for the hosts, as a quick play the ball off the back of a great run gave five-eighth Liam Darville early pill to attack a defensive line in all sorts.
The number six didn't blow his chance as he produced two left-foot steps to score near the posts.
The match then went into another holding pattern for 10 minutes before Coffs struck again, as halfback Ben Steele threw an inside ball for a robust Jason Whareiatu to shrug off defenders and dive over under the posts.
Frustration began to build for the Ghosts and it spilled over when prop Adam Slater was given 10 in the bin for dissent with 15 minutes left to play.
Coffs pounced on their numerical advantage four minutes later when they stripped the Ghosts defence of numbers, allowing Griffiths to race away 50m to score the match winner.
Another late try to Griffiths on the touchline was converted by fullback Nathan Curry, who made the difficult strike look easy.
As they say at the Comets, "Curry never misses”.
The 30-6 win puts Coffs Harbour four points clear on top of the table and secures them the minor premiership for 2019, barring their wheels falling off over the last three games.
The Grafton Ghosts remain in second.