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[singlepic id=285 float=right]Saturday August 6th, the Byron Bay Rams travelled to Lismore to take on arch rivals, Lismore Thistles. With their season hanging on a knife edge after last week’s home loss to Goonellabah, the Rams have no chance of the Minor Premiership and no guarantee of a finals spot if the recent lack of form continues.
Starting line-up against Thistles was Layton Barton in goals, Mav White, Sam Robson, Ian Lennie, Nolan Pierce, Aaron Richter-Steers, Corey Montgomery, Bruce Morhaus, Tommy Ruhl, Kazahiro Tsukamoto and Jordy Campbell, with Tom Baker, Tim Knight, Jonno Pierce, Toby Barton and Shannan Maciejewski on the bench.
After two bruising encounters with Thistles already this season, a hard and physical game was expected. At Thursday’s training, a full and frank assessment of the season so far left the Rams players in no doubt as to what was required of them. Byron started well with Tsukamoto and Campbell on the move and, with mid-field players arriving at pace in support, some serious questions were being asked of Thistles’ stretched back four.
It was ‘nip and tuck’ for the first half hour with the Rams just ahead in chances and possession.
Sloppy defending and a bit of hesitation allowed Thistles to hit the bar. Thankfully, the ref missed a little over zealous defending from the Rams.
A great flowing play saw Byron, with Tsukamoto and Campbell heavily involved, unleash a rampant Tom Ruhl into the Thistles box to slot home coolly from 12 metres out. It was a well deserved goal and the Rams lead held for the remainder of the half with Campbell, Ruhl and Tsukamoto forcing good saves from the Thistles keeper.
Lismore equalised in the 55th minute as Sullivan drove home the second ball after a free kick. (The referee was apparently the only one at the ground who had missed an earlier, rather blatant, Thistles hand ball). The Rams’ mental toughness wavered after this but, with old timers Morhaus, Lennie, and Richter-Steers leading by example, the game took on a more physical edge. Byron took the game to the Thistles and, playing well, created more chances. Maciejewski replaced a tiring but inspirational Tommy Ruhl, and despite missed chances from both him and Campbell, the Rams rose to the football and the physical challenges.
It was a bruising encounter that saw five yellow cards for the and three Thistles players leave the field injured. Despite a mouth wound (and his previous record against Byron) the older of the Parrish brothers managed to stay on the field for the whole game.
Tim Knight and Jonno Pierce joined the fray as Byron chased a result that would get the finals push back on track.
Despite the frustration of yet another draw, it was a good, solid game for the Rams, with lots of spirit shown in a full-blooded encounter. Ian Lennie, Bruce Morhaus, Sam Robson, Aaron Richter-Steers and young Maverick White were in good form, Layton was solid in goals, Tsukamoto and Campbell worked hard all day Byron really should have come away with three points - again.
Sam “Kobe” Robson was Man of the Match, just pipping Aaron Richter-Steers.
Reserves continued their unimpressive run with a 3-2 defeat, goals for Toby Barton and Tom Baker, to all but end their finals hopes. Individual errors again proved costly.
A fine game on Friday night saw the Women’s Premiers go down 2-0 to Champions Alstonville.
Byron’s ‘soar-away 6ths’ look like taking the championship after beating South Lismores 2-1. A win over bottom of the table Workers next week will clinch the title .
Byron 4ths drew 0-0 at Mullumbimby in a good showing, while the 3rds put up a great effort to go down 1-0, at Mullum. The 1sts stopped their recent run of defeats with a fine 1-0 win at Ballina.
John Sowter [nggallery id=24]