Byron’s hooker, Peter ‘Bloodnut’ Flannery runs from dummy half while, in the background, Joseph ‘General’ Gordon can’t believe that his hair has gone purple.
When battling tooth and nail with an uncompromising, equally determined opponent, what matters most is that nobody shirks it.
Enthralling an estimated 7,811 punters last Sunday, not one of the Byron Bay Red Devils went missing as the side hung on grimly to defeat perennial big-shots the Grafton Ghosts by 10-8, thus cementing their spot in the NRRRL top five as the play-offs loom.
A titanic struggle came down to the Ghosts’ failed attempt at conversion of a try, on the bell, from the sideline, to decide the matter – but as they say in the classics, a miss is as good as a mile.
Grafton threw everything at the Devils in the second forty and they might have considered themselves at least worthy of a draw, but nobody in red with a flute of pink champagne in their hand would have had a bar of the home side not being awarded the winner’s laurel.
A cold and cloudy afternoon was brightened by a higher than usual proportion of the fairer sex in the outer, attracted by the club’s commendable ‘ladies’ day’ promotion. In solidarity with the fight to defeat the scourge of breast cancer, the boys took the field in hot pink socks, but that was about as Liberace as things got in an intensely physical contest.
Moved from centre to full-back, as was GI, Chris ‘BB’ King opened the scoring for the Devils when he chimed into the outside edge attack to take three defenders over the white line with him in the corner.
After a cautious start in which both sides put a premium on minimising mistakes and sizing up the other mob, the breakthrough was like the release of a safety valve. Peter ‘Bloodnut’ Flannery dashed in from dummy-half and suddenly the Bay were ahead 10-nil. Nobody thought for a minute that the Ghosts would be rattled, but nor did anybody think that they would keep their hosts pointless for the next hour.
Brett ‘Barbarossa’ Harvey came close when he regathered an outlandish chip-and-chase, but as time passed it became apparent that the Blue-and-Whites were warming to the task. Byron had stolen the initiative, but the second half was bound to see an onslaught from the Ghosts. Victory would go to the side that was as strong in spirit as body, as resolute in self-belief as in structure.
The Ghosts got a try from broken play – it was a try that should never have been scored – and they started to act like lords of the manor. With tight passing, their bigger forwards were making plenty of headway and, when given the opportunity, their backs were on a number of occasions denied by last-ditch tackling. Up against it, the Red Devils might have crumbled, but they would not lie down.
Special mention must be made of prop ‘Toothless’ Simon Kelly who, as always, led his pack from the front. Whenever the Bay was under the pump – and it often was – he carried the ball fearlessly into the ruck to make valuable yards. Joined by Flannery, Harvey, Hemi ‘Sphere’ Mullen, wiry Sam ‘Bob’ Dwyer, Joseph ‘General’ Gordon and Michael ‘Twiggy’ Lambert, Byron’s forwards laid the foundation for a mighty win.