Byron Bay rugby were beaten 36-14 by Wollongbar Alstonville on Saturday in a replay of their washed out third round fixture. Byron is now in fourth position, one point behind Wollongbar, but they have a chance for immediate revenge when they host the Pioneers in Byron this Saturday.
Byron desperately missed the defensive organisation of regular fullback Jim Hawley who is overseas, and star winger Mitch Loane who has retired mid-season. Byron were also without the leadership of regular starting forwards Craig Wallace and Tom Homer who were holidaying in Brisbane.
A nervous warm-up preceded a calamitous opening to the game. Byron failed to deal with the kickoff and from the first scrum the home side brought in their blind side winger who scored untouched under the posts. An almost identical play from the restart had the Wollongbar fullback galloping through a yawning gap before drawing last man Rob Lynch and putting his centre partner away.
Two minutes on the clock; no tackles made, 0-14 the score. The Pioneers are a point scoring machine on their day and they were clinical against the undermanned visitors. A third try followed inside ten minutes.
Fullback Lynch was brought into the forward pack and added some much needed starch. Byron controlled possession and their midfield defence now looked something like the impressive wall that had recently denied Lennox Head and Ballina. No points were added in the half hour before the break.
Byron had much the better of the second half. Versatile front rower Josh Smith, carrying a greater burden with the absence of Wallace, was at his creative best around the rucks. Smith scored a superb solo try and created another for Lynch but the visitors lost momentum when both their second rower and halfback were simultaneously sin binned. Wollongbar added their fourth try and hopes for an unlikely comeback were dashed. The home side added a fifth try in the final play of the game.
Byron’s best was young forward Ryan Betts whose running game matures each week. Lynch has lost none of his sparkle and Michael Armstrong was brave in attack and defence. Halfback Jack Dickson’s service was typically excellent and Byron’s celebrity centres Harry Nuttall and George Kitching looked more than comfortable in the second half. Smith is all quality, he turned in another top four performance.
Former Wollongbar player Jash Saeck lost no admirers in the Byron shirt and can look forward to an improved team effort next week. The match is vital to Byron’s top four chances. The Bay are seven points clear of fifth placed Ballina who host seventh placed Bangalow on Saturday.
Byron Bay vs Wollongbar Alstonville kicks off at 3.30pm at the Recreation Fields on Saturday. Admission is free.
The club is also having a Trivia Night hosted by Frank Einstein the Trivia Master this Thursday evening June 27 at the Hotel Great Northern. It is important to book a table for this event . Phone Pete on 0432 437 175 or Helen on 0438 897 267.