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April 12, 2021

Big weekend for Byron Shire union

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Union-Byron-Bangalow-EJ-IMG_5469

In a local derby blockbuster, all three of the shire’s union teams descended on the rec grounds  in Byron Bay for a rainy day event on Saturday.

In a great game of push-me-pull-you in the reggies, the Mullumbimby Moonshiners won over the top of Bangalow in a 29–10 win.

Then…

Peter Griffin

After five glorious seasons on top, Byron Bay rugby has lost the ascendancy to Shire arch-rivals Bangalow.

Playing on the first wet track of the season, Byron seemed up for the contest against a very beatable looking Rebels outfit. Both teams were nervous in attack against the typically punishing defence. Byron forced seven turnovers in the opening 10 minutes but squandered the advantage with a slew of handling errors in their own half. Possession and territory count for so much more in these derby contests and Bangalow were gifted the early lead through two penalty conversions.

From the kickoff Byron worked into the attacking quarter for the first time and were rewarded immediately when Bangalow left the ball unattended at the back of the ruck for Tom Homer to swoop and score under the posts. Having taken the lead, the Bay were expected to turn the pressure on their rivals but the complete opposite unfolded. Byron simply could not get out of their own half and steadfastly refused to kick the ball. The visitors’ back three defended very deep, offering up an inviting space behind the charging Rebels’ defensive line. But there were no high balls or kicks to space and in the slippery conditions Byron’s ball-in-hand strategy was their undoing.

While Bangalow are not really known for expansive rugby, their backs were sharp and purposeful and made enough gains to satisfy their big forwards. Byron conceded further penalties under pressure (some of which were warranted) and inevitably the visitors added a try to widen the margin.

Derby games are usually see-sawing affairs but with Byron having a mountain to climb in the second half the visitors controlled the match and denied their opponents all but a fleeting glimpse of the try line. In Byron’s second visit into the attacking quarter the wonderfully competitive Jash Saeck dashed down the blind side from fullback and was carried over the line by his forwards.

It was all very difficult for the Byron fans to watch, more so with serious injuries to Romey Vassell and Craig Wallace. The effort was brave but the execution was poor. The best for the Bay were Homer, Saeck, cult figure Aaron ‘Shakey’ Shakeshaft, newcomer Pete Weir, and the returning Josh Smith who, despite not training for nine months, looked more than comfortable.

It remains to be seen if the Bay can avenge their 25–12 loss when the teams meet again in August but the manner of the defeat on Saturday was troubling.

In a hugely competitive season the Bay have slipped from being fifth, two points out of the four, to now being seven points adrift in seventh place. The Bay has a week to lick their wounds before making a season-defining road trip to Grafton, who surprised the champions Lismore 19–14 on Saturday.

Go the Bay!

~Photos Eve Jeffery


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