TOUGH TEST: South Grafton Rebels front rower Karl Woodley lets go of an offload during the first half against Macksville Sea Eagles at McKittrick Park.
TOUGH TEST: South Grafton Rebels front rower Karl Woodley lets go of an offload during the first half against Macksville Sea Eagles at McKittrick Park. Matthew Elkerton

Rebels rally late to hold out Sea Eagles

RUGBY LEAGUE: It took an inspirational second half effort from South Grafton Rebels front rower Xavier Sullivan to revive a fatigued home side in what was a tough test against Macksville Sea Eagles.

South Grafton withstood a fighting effort from the Macksville forward pack, steered by wily veteran Neville Donavan, to maintain its unbeaten record at home winning 30-14.

It was a feeling-out process between the two sizeable forward packs in the opening stages of the first half as the South Grafton side used their long kicking game to wrestle away the Macksville field position.

But the visitors were not willing to wilt in the face of a strong South Grafton attack, with their last trip north - when Grafton Ghosts put them to the sword - becoming a distant nightmare.

 

Rebels centre Austin Cooper is hit low in a driving tackle during the Group 2 first grade Round 9 match between South Grafton Rebels and Macksville Sea Eagles at McKittrick Park on Sunday, May 28.
Rebels centre Austin Cooper is hit low in a driving tackle during the Group 2 first grade Round 9 match between South Grafton Rebels and Macksville Sea Eagles at McKittrick Park on Sunday, May 28. Matthew Elkerton

Rebels front row pairing Xavier Sullivan and Karl Woodley got the early ascendancy in the battle of the big men, using their size to roll up the middle of the Macksville defence.

But it was the execution that let the home side down in the first half, with last passes not finding the mark and handling errors bringing an abrupt end to set plays.

A switch to a more simplified approach in the Macksville red zone was the trump card for the home side, as they sent a barnstorming Xavier Sullivan over the stripe with three Sea Eagles on his back.

South Grafton earnt a repeat set of six at the back end of the set, and off the back of a strong charge from Woodley captain Grant Stevens broke his way across the try line for a rare four-pointer.

Macksville managed to tear back the deficit off the back of a strong run from interchange forward Ben Cockbain who carried two defenders five metres before reaching out full-stretch to plant the ball.

 

With seconds ticking away in the first half, the home side got one last chance to extend its lead with a penalty attempt but it was missed by Aaron Taylor and the score remained 12-6 at the break.

A rejuvenated Macksville emerged from the sheds looking to continue its momentum from the back end of the half and the enthusiasm was evident from the first hit-up of a strong Josh Cockbain.

The Cockbain trifecta was completed when third brother Billy entered the fray off the bench and continued to punch holes in a struggling South Grafton defensive line.

With fatigue evident in the Rebels troops, Macksville continued to lift off the back of their big forwards and soon found themselves on the top of the scoreboard as well.

 

Rebels captain Grant Stevens has a talk with forward Ed Vale Tighe during a break in play during the Group 2 first grade Round 9 match between South Grafton Rebels and Macksville Sea Eagles at McKittrick Park on Sunday, May 28.
Rebels captain Grant Stevens has a talk with forward Ed Vale Tighe during a break in play during the Group 2 first grade Round 9 match between South Grafton Rebels and Macksville Sea Eagles at McKittrick Park on Sunday, May 28. Matthew Elkerton

Macksville exposed the Rebels right edge defence with tries to Peter Bula and lock forward Brad Southan to put the Sea Eagles in the box seat.

But just when the Rebels needed an inspiration, they got it in the form of bulldozing veteran Sullivan who fought tooth and nail with the strong Macksville pack later on in the second half.

Sullivan stormed his way over his opposite number on his way to a massive solo effort to breathe new life into the home side's pack at 14-12.

Stevens responded in kind to his front rower, the ferocious Rebels captain storming up the middle of the Macksville pack before offloading to a looming Kieren Stewart who dived across in the final five minutes. Taylor added the extras to take the lead past a converted try.

Austin Cooper crashed across in the final minute to put the match well beyond doubt in what was a tough test for the reigning premiers.

Will South Grafton Rebels win a third straight Group 2 title in 2017?

This poll ended on 15 August 2017.

Current Results

Yes - Nothing can stop the Rebels juggernaut at the moment. Let the good times roll.

36%

Maybe - A legacy has started, but the new committee must not drop the ball.

16%

I don't think so - Taunton and Matthews masterminded two premierships. A third, without them, would be a stretch.

10%

No - Every dog has his day. The Rebels are done.

36%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

IN OTHER Group 2 action around the grounds a mighty Coffs Harbour Comets outfit flexed their muscle against Sawtell Panthers running out 48-6 victors at Rex Hardaker Oval.

Nambucca Heads Roosters have been left languishing at the bottom of the table after narrowly succumbing 30-26 to the Woolgoolga Seahorses at Coronation Park.

While on Saturday Grafton Ghosts proved why they are the benchmark of the Group 2 first grade competition with a 36-0 shut-out of Orara Valley Axemen.

It wasn't a pleasing experience for Axemen coach Col Speed against his former club as his side gave up plenty of opportunities at Coramba.

Who will win the 2017 Group 2 Rugby League title?

This poll ended on 09 August 2017.

Current Results

Bellingen Magpies

4%

Coffs Harbour Comets

6%

Grafton Ghosts

58%

Macksville Sea Eagles

3%

Nambucca Heads Roosters

3%

Orara Valley Axemen

1%

Sawtell Panthers

4%

South Grafton Rebels

14%

Woolgoolga Seahorses

3%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.



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