The SCU Marlins lost their opening match of the MNC Rugby season in a nailbiter.
The SCU Marlins lost their opening match of the MNC Rugby season in a nailbiter. Rachel Vercoe

Marlins pipped in a thriller

GRAFTON produced a match-winning play in the shadows of fulltime to stop the SCU Marlins starting their MNC Rugby title defence with a win.

The Marlins held the lead late on home soil but Grafton was able to cross the line after a 20 metre pass from Paul Cameron found Ed McGrath in space who in turn passed to Karrnunny Pearce who found the chalk to sending edmen fans into raptures.

Missing some key players and playing their first match of the season there's plenty of room for improvement for the reigning premier.

Grafton has now won its opening two matches of the season proving it will be a force in 2018.

For the Coffs Snappers their match at Port Macquarie was indeed a tale of two halves.

The Snappers dominated the opening half to take a decisive 21-3 lead into the break. It proved to be just enough.

While the Coffs team dominated the opening exchanges after the resumption, the Snappers were unable to turn a glut of possession into a match sealing try.

Buoyed by their defensive effort, the Pirates began to turn an arm wrestle their way and were able to score three tries in quick succession.

The scoreline became 28-24 and the Snappers were forced to dig deep late to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

For Pirates coach Nigel Hurlston it was a case of so near yet so far.

"Another five minutes we'd probably have snatched a win,” he said.

The Snappers face another trip to Port Macquarie this weekend to meet perennial MNC Rugby powerhouse Hastings Valley. The Pirates drive north up the Pacific Hwy to meet the Marlins.