Byron Bay were beaten 38–17 at home by Lismore in the third round of Far North Coast Rugby on Saturday.
Byron is still a work in progress under new coach Paul Jeffery but if anything the team should be emboldened by their performance against the champions.
The visitors took a deserved but hardly decisive 14–10 advantage to halftime. Lismore’s backline twice opened up Byron’s defence from long-range counterattacking raids but the Bay replied in kind with a rare try to back-rower Matt Larsson. Impressive newcomer Romey Vassell proved too clever on his feet for the opposing centre pair and laid on the try for the popular former Lismore man.
Lismore moved to 19–10 after the break but momentum shifted when the Byron forwards began to dominate their highly rated opposition. The usual suspects Craig Wallace, Ryan Betts, Rob Lynch and Larsson were all tormenting the Lismore forwards as the sweat from Anzac Day celebrations rose like a heat haze around the ground.
The home team now had all the territory and possession but the Bay’s still disjointed attack could not deliver the decisive play. Lismore may not look as polished as last season but the desire of the champions was evident. They clawed their way downfield and took the game from Byron in bizarre circumstances.
The incendiary Wallace was hit late by a ‘third man in’ Lismore forward after a scuffle had broken out on the grandstand touchline. The linesman immediately raised his flag as Lismore swept left to set up a try. The officials conferred and stunned the crowd by awarding the try and producing a yellow card to Byron’s Matt Larsson who could not have been further from the incident had he been on the Mir spacestation.
After the incident players on both sides lost focus and composure and three tries were scored in quick succession in a spiteful end to the contest. Players from both teams were yellow carded as a nervous referee clutched for control of the match. Tom Sandstrom scored for Byron after the excellent James Hawley had swooped on a loose ball.
The Bay’s Hawley, Betts and Wallace were all outstanding but the revelation was Byron’s new front-rower Aaaron Shakeshoff. The power-packed import gave Byron’s set piece a massive boost and his bursts close to the ruck delighted the Byron faithful. He is sure to be a crowd favourite.
Byron return to the Rec fields this Saturday against the disappointing Southern Cross University. A comfortable win is expected but more importantly the third game of the campaign will add further cohesion to the spirit and passion always evident in Byron Bay Rugby.
Go the Bay!