With 3 junior teams still in contention for grand final berths, Saturday saw the 14 2nds take on Eureka at Byron Rec Grounds while the 14 1sts travelled to Lismore for a later fixture. The 14 2nds were determined to win through to the grand final, having only once reached semi-final status in their 4 years together. With Alex Kempnich coming out of goals and managing play from the mid-field the team were solid in defence and dangerous in attack. Two goals from Cameron Lamb and a third from Yarbirri Zillig-Vandyke sealed the win 3 goals to nil earning the 14 2nds an invite to Oakes oval this saturday. Special mention for Jackson Saunders who was solid in goals and Phoenix Smith managing the defensive backline. With the positive result through from Byron, the 14 1sts took to the field at Thistles determined their mates wouldn't be alone at Oakes oval. In a tense and even match half time came with no score despite chances on both sides. The second half brought more of the same and looked to be heading for extra time until with eight minutes left on the clock Thistles broke the deadlock. A great passing move down the left created a golden chance for the big Thistles winger and though keeper Connor Congdon got fingertips to the top corner shot it wasn't enough to keep it out. Some strategic changes from coach Paul Clark saw Harry Kent and Louis Clark move out of the backs to play forward. This almost bore immediate results when Harry took the ball from the kick off and flew down the left wing sending in a fine cross that almost landed in the net. Louis followed with a breakout run down the right but couldn't get a shot off when pressured by the defence. Thistles were determined to seal the win though and applied intense pressure that had the Rams backtracking and left our backs Tariq, Ethan and Zak desperately holding off a sustained attack. Thistles eventually broke through, their striker hitting a low drive to the far post which would surely have sealed the game had it gone in. A diving, fingertip save from Connor though deflected what would have been a certain goal around the far post.
The young Rams fired up and when Ronan Krarup sent a lofted ball through the forwards, Louis Clark outstripped the defence putting through a solid finish that left the Thistles keeper no chance. With only a few minutes left to go it was end to end football but the Rams were fired up and determined to take the game. When Austin Davis pressured the defenders having collected the ball from a corner, despite an elbow to the head he persisted and his shot was buried in the net. With a two to one lead to Byron and not long to go, the game turned into a match of long ball footy. With about 30 seconds on the clock a desperate clearance from our backs turned into a great chance for Angus Callan on the left wing as he inexplicably found himself five metres in front of a static Thistles defence. There was only one way to go and he easily slotted Byron's third goal to seal the game and send the boys into the grand final. Credit to all the boys who gave 100% for the entire game then stepped it up a notch to mount an inspired comeback scoring three goals in less than seven minutes!
On Sunday our 13 girls took on a disciplined Alstonville side in a match that was always going to be a challenge. Knowing we had to get a win the Byron girls started with plenty of fire, dominating the opening fifteen minutes with some great passing play between Eva, Rainer, Salem and Georgia. Shots were fired but we couldn't find the net and Alstonville gradually got back into the game. Our defence was solid though with Abby, Piper and Kyra holding the opposition at bay. Eventually Alstonville broke through and at half time we were one nil down. The second half saw Byron come out firing again but the heat was taking it's toll. Chances became fewer and Alstonville eventually broke through again. In the end the girls went down four goals to nil but played a good game, the result not really reflecting the tempo of the game. Eva and Rainer were tireless in mid-field and Annika put in a great effort in goals, saving a penalty and pressuring the attacking players. A good season all round that has seen some real improvement from the girls and has been lots of fun along the way.