With a nail-biting extra- time win over Lismore Thistles at the Rec Grounds on Sunday, the Byron Bay Services Club Rams have secured a spot in this year’s Premier Division Grand Final.
They will be joining their Premier Reserves brethren in contesting their sixth Grand Final of the last seven years and aiming for a record third consecutive Championship.
Having beaten Thistles convincingly in its last two encounters, Byron went into the match firm favourites for a comfortable victory.
Thistles, however, were having none of it and set out to make their mark early, attacking the Rams ferociously from the kick-off. Byron defended and quickly quelled the Thistles’ initial rush of blood and the game settled into a vigorous end-to-end tussle for most of the first half.
Golden Boot Lisandro Luaces finally broke the deadlock in the final minute of the half, pouncing on a through ball and driving home to give Byron the lead at half time.
The intensity lifted a notch in the second half with both sides determined to claim the prized Grand Final spot. Five minutes into the second half and a clash between a Thistles forward and Byron’s flying goalkeeper, Pierce Essery, saw a penalty awarded to the away team.
Thistles converted the spot kick with the equaliser the beginning of a dogged battle for the upper hand. The match see-sawed for the remaining 40 minutes of regular time with both teams making chances but failing to capitalise on them.
Luaces, Jono Pierce and Yusmel Mustelier hammered the Lismore defence but couldn’t find the net and the match went into extra time. Both coaches brought on fresh legs from the bench and the pace and resolve became even more intense.
In the dying moments of extra time and with a penalty shootout looming, fiery young sub Zac Miletic sliced through the Thistles defensive lines, snapping a pass to Rick Muir who sent it on to Jonathan Pierce.
Pierce’s perfectly timed strike gave the Thistles’ keeper no chance and the jubilant Rams and the big crowd erupted in celebration.
Byron Bay now face South Lismore at Crozier Field in Lismore for retiring coach Damon Bell’s sixth Grand Final and, hopefully, his third win on the trot.
Grand Final Details
Premer Division: South Lismore v Byron Bay FC. 5:30pm Saturday 21 September at Crozier Field, Lismore
Premier Reserves: Byron Bay FC v Richmond Rovers. 3pm Saturday 21 September at Crozier Field, Lismore.