Byron Bay’s Under 16’s and Premier squads both scored gratifying wins against their 2014 nemeses in Sunday’s opening round of the Anzac Cup.
The 16s met the young guns from Summer Youth League winners, Lennox Head, in a fast-moving and entertaining clash at the windy Ewingsdale grounds.
Battling a strong headwind, the Byron boys looked to have the better of it in the first half, but strong counter attacks earned their southern neighbours an early goal before half time.
With the wind behind them in the second half, the young Rams turn up the heat. A cracking drive from Zac Sezer brought the equaliser and trademark curling corner from Harrison Kent found its way through the goalmouth congestion to seal Byron’s first win of the season.
The main event saw the Rams’ top squad meet Richmond Rovers in a rematch of last season’s Premier Division grand final. Both teams were in pre-season mode, building fitness and settling new players but, while the match lacked the pace and finesse of the Final, it was just as keenly contested.
Starting strongly against the wind from the opening whistle, Byron took an early lead when a great delivery from Herick Schuenemann put speedy striker James Tomlinson onto a winning run. Ten minutes in, the Rams were a goal in front and looking fit and strong in their first outing for new Coach Jeremy Sutton.
With half time approaching, Rams’ veteran Todd Knaus drew out the Rovers defenders and keeper with another powerful attacking run. His clean pass across the open goal was finished with a deft tap from Will Ennis to take Byron into the break 2-0 up.
Rams Keeper Chris Jones retired injured early in the piece to be replaced by reserves keeper Isaac Askew.
The second half saw a determined fight back from the Lismore League Champions, but the tailwind, superior fitness and a stellar performance from the young substitute Keeper kept the Rams on top.
One of many tense goalmouth skirmishes saw Byron concede a penalty that put Rovers on the board and back into the match. A re-energised Rovers ramped up the pressure and only dogged defending and some spectacular saves from young Askew held them out. Rovers found the net in yet another goalmouth melee but the goal was disallowed and a free kick awarded to the Rams.
With Rovers energy reserves fading, Byron took advantage of the wind, sending strikers Tomlinson and quick new recruit Tyson on repeated runs on the Rovers goal. Late in the match, Tyson outpaced the Rovers defence and slipped a clean touch past the keeper to bring the final score to 3-1.
Round 2 this Sunday has the 16s travelling to Lismore to meet Italo Stars at 1pm while the Prems are back at Ewingsdale to challenge last year’s Anzac Cup champions, Lismore Thistles, at 4.30.
Story and pics by Dogwhistle