Story & photo John Campbell
Byron Bay has continued its progress towards a possible top-three spot in the NRRRL play-offs with Sunday’s hard-fought 26–16 victory over Mullumbimby.
Local derbies can never be anticipated as foregone conclusions, regardless of where the antagonists might stand on the ladder. The Giants have had a less than glittering season, but they have never turned it up. Thwarting the more fancied Red Devils at a crucial time in their finals push would have pleased them no end. That they were not quite good enough to pull off the upset was not through want of trying – it’s just that the Bay had that touch of class whenever the balance threatened to topple the visitors’ way.
Miserably cold conditions kept the crowd to an estimated 3,227, not too many of whom would have been impressed by a scrappy opening of penalties and knock-ons.
As is so often the case, a score settled things. Ben ‘Spider’ Webber took advantage of hesitant tacklers to run about 60 metres in covering 30 and planting the pill in the corner.
Shortly after, Bill ‘the Lion’ King got the first of his hat-trick of tries. The elusive centre looked threatening every time he touched the ball and it came as no surprise when he took a pass on the blind, forty out, and threaded his way to the line. Neither did it come as a surprise when the Giants’ raging bull, Jack ‘La Motta’ Govett, stormed in to make it 8–6 to the Bay at the break.
Hemi ‘Sphere’ Mullen put Sam ‘Dolly’ Dwyer through a gap with a deft offload soon after the resumption and Byron were on their way. Unfortunately, the man of the moment from the Bay’s previous outing, against United, William Goldsmith, could not buy a goal all arvo.
‘Peppi’s having a bad-hair day,’ mused the Old Bloke, and what might have been breathing room remained at an uncomfortable 12–6.
Byron’s compacted defence had invited circumnavigation throughout, but Mullum rarely got around it, so tirelessly did the Devils arrive in cover. When it came to slugging their way down the middle, the Giants did so with conviction, but the Devils protected their line with urgency and grunt.
After a Giant had been binned for irresponsibly giving lip to the ref, Byron produced the play of the day.
On half-way, Webber chipped cross-field, placing the ball precisely into space behind the onrushing tacklers. It floated through the air in slo-mo, like a dove. Tip-toeing down the western flank, King’s eyes never left it. As the ball dropped, he reached for it and caught it on the tips of his fingers, then flew in under the sticks. It was poetry. Jared ‘Monsieur’ De Thiery relieved Goldsmith of the kicking duties and his conversion made it a near unassailable 22–6.
A flurry of tries, including King’s third from a scrum win, rounded up proceedings and, as the weather closed in, all anybody wanted to do was get inside and under a stream of hot water.
The Giants had left nothing in the tank – they never do – but fortune has not smiled on them in 2014. The Red Devils were their usual enigmatic selves. They promise much and there is a sense that they just might peak when the moment is right.
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