The rivalry between the Park Hotel Rams and Lismore Thistles continued with a re-run of last year’s Anzac Cup final at Lismore’s Oakes Oval on Friday night.
It was Byron’s third final in as many years, and Damon Bell’s Rams were determined to take home the pre-season championship silverware.
From the outset, they looked evenly matched and the crowd was in for an entertaining evening, with plenty of fiery midfield action, powerful attacking and gritty defence.
Thistles opened the score early with defender Max Hospers flying high to take a header from a long-range throw. Another header from Jason Woolett shortly after gave Thistles an early 2–0 lead.
Rams striker James Tomlinson’s relentless attacks on the Thistles goal were thwarted by tough tackling from man-of-the-match, Hospers, while the Packham brothers held the Byron line for the remainder of the second half.
Rams’ substitute Barry Wood put Byron back in the game with a tidy finish to a cross from Michael Kelly taking them into the break at 2–1.
The second half saw an epic battle for the midfield with both sides fighting hard for the upper hand. The struggle saw some tough defending and busy keepers.
Despite tireless performances from James Tomlinson, Herick Schuenneman, Kazuhiro Tsukamoto and a gutsy effort from the entire Byron squad, the Rams couldn’t crack the Lismore defence to find the equaliser. A penalty gave Thistles a 3–1 lead that they defended solidly through the remaining 15 minutes.
Another tough final, another bridesmaid finish for the Rams and a taste of what looks like being the battle for this year’s Premiership honours.
The next round of the regular season has the Rams facing up to another Lismore rival, Richmond Rovers, at home on May 3.
Reserves take to the pitch at 1pm and the prems at 3pm.
Photos Greg Meek