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[singlepic id=285 float=right]Byron Bay Rams clash against defending Champions Richmond Rovers at Neilson Park on Saturday was billed as the Premier League football match of the round and it lived up to expectation in spades. It was always going to be a tough match with both sides looking to claim the important 3 points at the start of the season. It was intense and very entertaining from the outset however it was the Rams who showed clear dominance, forcing the bulk of play into Rovers half. However too many chances went unfinished with the Rovers nimble backline able to wrap up each attack. The Rams finally broke the drought at the 35 mark with a bending cross from Jonathan Pierce to Kazuhiro Tsukamoto just outside the goal mouth. He bounced a header off the ground and forced an own goal from a deflection to put the Rams in front. Just 2 minutes later young Rams defender Sam Robson made an overlapping run and crossed a beautiful ball to Ryan Gray. He knocked a curving header over the Rovers keeper Andrew Marshall into the top left corner. However Rovers immediately fought back, cool under pressure and showed why they are defending champions with Shane Scicluna able to score from a fast break on the left flank with just minutes from the break.
As is so often the case the second half play is so different from the first and two minutes in, Scicluna managed to break through the Rams defenders keeping a tactical forward line of defence. Scicluna sped towards goal and was able to get the ball past Rams keeper Layton Barton advancing to stop him. With Rovers invigorated by levelling the score again they stepped up their attacks and defences. It became anyone’s game with both teams fighting tooth and nail for the winning goal. Pierce kept up the Rams attacks on the flank and Robson was outstanding in the backline. Sam Owens showed once again why he is one of the Premier Leagues best midfielders controlling Rovers stand outs Jonathan See and Blair Smith.
Clearly the intensity and passion of the players was there for all to see and the crowd was thoroughly entertained. However the pain of a 2-2 draw could haunt both teams later if front runners Goonellabah are able to break away on the competition ladder. The Rams have a busy week the Anzac Cup semi final against an in form Lismore Thistles on Tuesday night. They will back up against Alstonville at the Byron Bay recreation grounds at 3.00pm on Saturday. Villa will be desperate for a win after a disappointing early start to the season.