Story & photo John Campbell
The Byron Red Devils have kept alive their chances of playing in the NRRRL play-offs with a committed victory over the Casino Cougars. The final score was only 24-12, but the home side won it running away following an absorbing struggle.
On an arvo best suited to sitting in front of the fire with the cat, a Robert G Barrett paperback and a warm Courvoisier, an estimated 1,433 damp but delighted footy tragics turned out to watch the Devils maintain their promising mid-season revival.
After absorbing early pressure, Byron’s Peter ‘get my name right’ Flannery, busy as a bee from dummy half, split the defence to send ‘Toothless’ Simon Kelly over with a beautiful inside pass, but the ref, blind in one eye and unable to see out of the other, called it forward. To make amends, the red-headed hooker then took it upon himself to open the scoring, but if the overriding impression was that we were about to witness a cakewalk, Casino thought otherwise.
An arm wrestle ensued. The visitors, fielding a couple of big boppers in the engine room and sharp movers at full-back and five-eighth, performed above expectations. Their desire was raw and, uninhibited by the horrible conditions, they put it to the Bay and looked to be gaining the upper hand when they led 12-4 at the break.
Doom and gloom whispered that the second forty might be a repeat of the first.
But coach Nathan Cross, at last with continuity in his weekly line-up, is fashioning a side that keeps its head and focuses on the job at hand.
The Cougars carried on from where they left off. Byron, unaffected by mounting tension, lifted a gear. Their forwards stormed into the ruck and the backs, with Fraser ‘Corporal’ Jones scoring a try when they ran it on the fifth, were more threatening.
Despite throwing everything at an outclassed opponent, however, Byron still trailed 12-8. Casino’s stubborn resistance was broken when Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell scooted in under the posts. Among the crowd the relief was palpable – for officers in the police wagon on the hill it was audible, as they treated us to a heartening ‘whirrr!’ from their siren.
With the Law on their side, the Devils then produced the most outlandish of tries. Chris ‘BB’ King booted the ball into the stormy grey heavens – it was a terrifying torpedo that nobody in maroon wanted a bar of. Racing through to get the psychedelic bounce was Joseph ‘Conrad’ Gordon who, as he fell to earth, threw a dying-swan pass to ‘Sexy’ Rexy Sheavils, who gleefully planted it over the white line for a four-pointer that brought sunshine to a cloudy day.
King completed a fine effort from the men in red by sprinting seventy metres to dive over in the corner.
Five rounds of the comp remain. The Mullumbimby Giants pulled one out of the hat on Saturday night to defeat Kyogle 21-20, so our Shire’s sides remain in the hunt. Both are on the road next week – Byron to Evans Head and Mullum to South Grafton.
Away the lads!