With 3 wins in a row from 3 games and 11 goals to their credit the Park Hotel sponsored Byron Bay Rams were full of confidence going into their Anzac Cup semi final hit up with arch rivals Lismore Thistles last Sunday. Thistles “Blues” coach Paul Parmenter ran on the same side that smashed Ballina 5-0 last week and he was looking for the same from his fast attacking squad. The 200 or so vocal spectators were treated to fast and furious action from the start and in the first 15 minutes there were 15 attacks or shots on goal at either end. The pace from both sides was blistering and both midfields were working overtime distributing the ball to the flanks or up through the middle. Rams coach Peter Ware gave Layton Barton the difficult task of closing down Blues veteran playmaker Darren Beadow. It seemed like the Rams defensive wall of Ian Lennie and Shaun Packham was impenetrable and gave great confidence to the Rams attackers. The Blues strikers Beadow, Jake Nind and Nathan McCann kept bombarding the Rams defence at every opportunity and Rams keeper Pierce Essery had to pull off some great saves for what would have been certain goals, while Byron’s Tommy Ruhl, Sammy Owens, Tim Knight and Sam Robson blasted the other end. The battle of the midfield was really intense with Rams Victor Pires, Aaron Richter-Steers, Lachlan Dewar and Jonathan Pearce matching tackle for tackle with Thistles’ Max Hospers, Dustin Rudgley, Matt Weir and Darren Beadow. However at the ½ time whistle it was still anyone’s game and 0-0.
Both coaches made some changes for the second half however the deadlock remained until the 62 minute mark when Barton sent a lofted pass to Owens on the left flank. He ran the ball 30 metres past 2 defenders and slammed it into the net past Blues keeper Nick Baker 1-0. Just 3 minutes later Thistles’ Matt Weir tried to even the score after the referee awarded a penalty from a defensive error in the Rams penalty box. With nerves of steel Essery got a hand to Weirs penalty and in the melee that followed he was forced to deflect other Thistles shot 3 seconds later. It seemed to be the turning point in the game and Byron took control of the ball. 10 minutes later Knight broke away down the right flank for the Rams and sent a cross to Owens, he flicked a short pass to Barton in a goalmouth rumble with Blues’ Max Hospers; Barton’s shot eventually found the net.
At the 79 minute mark, Sammy Owens found space again on the Rams’ left flank. With blinding pace he took on the Blue’s defence all on his own and slammed his shot past Baker the keeper, who was just off his line. The Rams supporters went wild and the usually vocal Thistles crowd went strangely quiet for the remainder of the game. Thistles tried in vain to find a way through the rock solid Rams’ defence in the last 10 minutes and the final score remained at 3-0.
The crowd was thoroughly entertained and even many of the Thistles Supporters will be at the Grand final on Anzac Day to watch the Park Hotel sponsored Byron Bay Rams fight it out with the winner of the other semi final between Lismore Workers Club and Alstonville on April 4th.