They say that a week can be a long time in politics (it’s like Chinese water torture at the moment), and it proved to be so also for the Byron Bay Red Devils on Saturday at Lismore’s Crozier Field. Coming off the back – or more like the belly – of an unacceptable effort against Ballina, the Devils smashed Marist Brothers to the tune of 30-6 in their NRRRL elimination semi.
Resorting to a cherished cliché – it was a game of two halves.
The first forty was tight and tense. Marists were completing their sets better than Byron, who appeared over-keen and tending to make unforced errors by hurriedly attempting the decisive play. Defence was another matter altogether – the Devils went in mob-handed and took no prisoners.
An arm wrestle ensued, but the longer it went on the clearer it became that Byron were winning the grind. To and fro both sides went, with neither able to seize the advantage. The deadlock was broken when hooker Tim Foster put his head down and arse up to drill through from dummy-half and give the Devils a hard-earned lead. It was an immense psychological blow – on the surface of it, going to the sheds at 6-0 was hardly conclusive, but it felt like the Berlin Wall had just come down and it would not be rebuilt. The spring was in the step of the blokes in red.
Low cloud, dimming light and spitting rain had the environs feeling like Dewsbury as the second half got underway.
The question of who would lift for the challenge was quickly answered.
Chris and Noel King were heavily involved as the Devils worked their way into the Papists’ twenty, from where Foster got his second try.
Marist Brothers’ demeanour was now that of a broken side, unable to match their opponents’ gear-shift. Thirty remained on the clock, but they were done.
At this point plenty of us might have wondered – would Byron go to sleep? They are an outfit of infuriating mood swings. Surely they could not, on such an occasion, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
The floodlights lit up at 3.50 and to celebrate being able to see clearly, Byron converted a penalty to make it 14-0.
Chris ‘BB’ King, a crucial component in the Devils’ campaign, chipped audaciously for Noel, who went to within an inch of scoring, before Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell rewarded their effort with a typically shrewd try to take it to 20-0.
Bill ‘the Lawman’ Lowrie crossed from a scrum, Marists pulled one back and Simon ‘Colgate’ Kelly closed the scoring with a much-deserved four-pointer.
This was a terrific win, built on commitment, discipline and uncompromising grunt – the Bay put it to Marist Brothers and they were found wanting.
Next weekend the boys travel to Grafton. It’s another sudden death journey, and they have nothing to rely on but their own resolve and the quality of the footy of which they are capable.
In the early game, the mighty Mullumbimby Giants’ Under 18s defeated Kyogle 24–18 in a tough, see-sawing encounter that takes them also deeper into the play-offs.