Byron Bay rugby were beaten 44–15 by First Grade front runners Wollongbar-Alstonville on Saturday.
In a game of three parts, a feisty and competitive opening 10 minutes was followed by a spectacular five-try blitz by the Pioneers in the space of 25 minutes.
The Bay rallied to win the second half but with the home side commanding a 37–3 half-time lead the contest had long been over.
Byron’s back-line defence was simply unable to deal with the Pioneers’ speed, polish and superb running lines. Almost every play in the devastating spell involved the blind-side winger and/or fullback creating an extra man and, with the Pioneer finishers having better hands than Beethoven, the result was a showreel. Byron’s characteristic line speed and aggression were absent and with defenders rocking back on their heals the Pioneers took the invitation to run into yawning gaps.
The Bay’s character is never in question and the visitors were rewarded with two second-half tries. Left-winger Ben Macnee finished after Jash Saeck controlled a bouncing ball and right-winger Tom Sandstrom crossed after a 40-metre solo dash.
Byron’s forwards more than matched their opponents’; Aaron Shakeshaft was charging through the middle of the ruck as was hugely talented lock Ryan Betts, who is looking like a slightly more attractive John Eales.
Byron’s set piece was solid, particularly at the line out, which has improved to be one of the best in the competition. The forwards all toiled bravely, particularly Captain Matt Larsson and hooker Tom Homer.
After seven rounds the Bay’s flirtation with the top four continues. Byron have dropped to fifth, two points behind Ballina and two points ahead of sixth-placed Bangalow.
The stage could not be better set for another instalment in the great rivalry between Byron and their shire neighbours.
Bangalow ground out a 19–3 win against Grafton on Saturday and will start slight favourite this weekend despite the Bay having home-ground advantage.
Byron’s winning culture may yet prove decisive with the Bay having lost only once to Bangalow in their past 12 meetings. The match kicks off at the Rec Fields at 3.15pm on Saturday.
Byron’s junior team continues to impress and entertain. The under-9s produced a wonderful spectacle at the Rec Fields on Friday with a draw against Lismore. No fewer than 20 tries were scored despite some rattling defence from both young teams.
Go the Bay!
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