SHELLSHOCKED: Comets overpower Ghosts to earn grand final
RUGBY LEAGUE: For the first time in five years Coffs Harbour will host the Group 2 grand final after the Comets bucked their Frank McGuren Field hoodoo to clinch a 32-18 semi-final victory.
The Ghosts were left shellshocked after the Comets forwards steamrolled the middle third of the field throughout the 80 minutes.
A few contentious decisions went the way of the Comets, and Danny Wicks was left to ask the question of referee Blake Smoothy several times throughout the clash.
But it was the strength of the Comets that earned them the rights to host the grand final in two weeks.
The final was left on a sad note after Ben McLennan was taken from the ground in an ambulance after he was hit in heavy contact late in the clash.
While he was left lying on the turf by the incident, McLennan was responding to paramedics on the field and is understood to have feeling in his extremities.
Coffs Harbour had come with the intent to punish the Ghosts with their physicality, and their big blokes were quick to go to work.
Front-row pairing Jason Whareitu and Matt Cheeseman worked over the Ghosts middle third in the opening sets, consistently punching holes through the line.
With the focus on the speed of the ruck, it was the Comets winning the battle, able to roll through their sets and put pressure on the Ghosts line.
It was the build up of pressure that saw the first cracks form in the Ghosts resolve, with a knock-on coming out of their half gifting the Comets field position.
The visitors were not going to let a chance go begging, and were first to cross the stripe through a barnstorming run from lock Steve Spencer.
The Ghosts were continually losing the battle of the ruck, and when they were pinged for holding the player down in the following set, it gave the Comets another priceless opportunity.
This time it was star five-eighth and captain Simon Brittain-Snowden who found his way between a couple of lazy arms to score under the sticks.
At 12-0 down, the Ghosts were in need of a lift and it came in the form of Joel Moss, who rocketed out of the defensive line to put a seismic hit on Comets fullback Nathan Curry.
The Ghosts would come back into the clash, settling into a heavy-hitting arm wrestle with Moss doing a lot of the hard yards out of his own end.
But after stretching their lead with a penalty goal to Nathan Curry, the Comets would deal a lethal blow in the shadows of halftime through Whareitu.
The home side needed to be the first to score after the break, and they got their wish when dummy-half Todd Cameron burrowed his way across the stripe from short range.
It appeared as if Cameron was about to resurrect the Ghosts charge on his own when he broke through the Comets defence again, but a wayward offload back on the inside found opposition hands.
It was an unlikely source in Comets coach Brandon Costin, but the former NRL and Superleague player obliged for his side, outstripping Ghosts fullback, a man half his age, Cooper Woods to the tryline.
The Ghosts would again shorten the gap to their opponents through a tough effort from Riley Law who planted the ball under the sticks.
Ghosts fans would have had visions of the final round win when the Ghosts scored 16 points in the final 10 minutes, and it threatened to go the same way after Dylan Collett chipped for himself to score in the corner.
But it wasn't to be with Comets big man Matt Cheeseman scoring a well-earned runaway try in the final minute to seal a historic semi-final win.
SCORELINE: COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 32 (S Brittain-Snowden, S Spencer, J Whareitu, B Costin, M Cheeseman tries; N Curry 6 goals) def GRAFTON GHOSTS 18 (T Cameron, R Law, D Collett tries; T Cameron 3 goals)