With the Northern Hotel Byron Bay Rams’ comfortable lead eroded by a draw and an upset loss in the last two weeks, Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with Richmond Rovers was billed as the ‘match of the season’.
With the Pointscore Championship on the line in both Premier and Premier Reserves divisions, the Rams were on the cusp of a history making double. Richmond Rovers, last year’s Grand Final winners were keen wrest the minor premiership title from the Rams and were in for a fight.
The Reserves match started strong, despite the drenching rain, with both sides going full tilt from the opening whistle. Byron’s solid attack was met with dangerous counter-attacks from Rovers, and the game see-sawed from end to end. The Rams seemed to have the edge early, with four runs the Rovers goal in the first 2 minutes. A Rovers counterattack 15 minutes in caught the Rams defence wrong footed and Rovers took the lead with an early goal. Byron continued its high intensity attack, with many shots from Conor Cannon, Herrick Schuenemann and Kazuhiro Tsukamoto but none finding the net. Five minutes into the second half Jonathan Pierce battled his way through the tough Rovers defence and managed to get a cross away into the Rovers box. Kazuhiro Tsukamoto made no mistake and levelled the score at 1-1.
A moment later, in a clumsy goal-mouth skirmish, Rovers managed to sink a ball after a half dozen deflected close range attempts. Byron fought back hard and probably had the best of the play, but were unable to claw back the lead. Rovers took the match and the competition lead for the second time. The Rams Reserves are still in the hunt for the pointscore title – just. A win against Alstonville and draw between Rovers and Thistles would give them the title on goal difference.
The Premier Division
The top-squad match was as intense and lively as anticipated with ’sheep stations’ definitely on the table. Once again, the Rams looked marginally the better side, but Rovers were giving away nothing in grit and determination.
Byron opened the scoring 25 minutes into the first half when James Tomlinson battled his way through the Rovers flank to cross to Tyson Kaye unmarked on the six yard box. One-nil.
Another twenty minutes of fast and furious football played out before Rovers equalised seconds before the half-time whistle. The second half was even more hotly contested, with the scoreline locked at one-all and both sides determined to take the honours. Byron again had the better of the opportunities with seemingly countless shots on goal from Tomlinson, Kaye, Sam Owens, Michael Kelly and Alejo Villesana with none beating the Rovers defence and keeper.
Minutes before the whistle, Tomlinson beat two defenders and blasted a drive through the back line. The Rovers Keeper couldn’t contain it and the Rams took the lead once again.
The battle continued unabated right down to the wire, with Rovers desperate to get back into the game and the Rams still chasing goals.
The final scoreline at 2-1 gave Byron the Pointscore Championship for the second year in succession and a valuable head start on the finals series.
Next week, The Rams play away at Alstonville with the Reserves needing a win to keep their Minor Premiership hopes afloat and the Prems with pride on the line.
Reserves kick off at 1pm and the Prems at 3pm.