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April 23, 2021

Seagulls deliver reality check for Red Devils

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Ballina’s live wire fullback Brett Kelly tries out his left-foot step on Byron’s Ben Webber at red Devil Park on Sunday.
Ballina’s live wire fullback Brett Kelly tries out his left-foot step on Byron’s Ben Webber at red Devil Park on Sunday.

Story & photos John Campbell

The Cronulla Sharks have provided us with some cracking come-from-behind wins in recent weeks. Conceding their opponents’ seemingly insurmountable leads, they have clawed their way back against both Brisbane and the Roosters to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

It’s not such an uncommon occurrence in the greatest game of all but, for it to happen, the side that rises like Lazarus usually needs the other mob to go off the boil and hit the Bundy ahead of time.

In their Round 12 NRRRL clash last Sunday, before a bumper parochial crowd nearing 7,009, Byron Bay found themselves sixteen points adrift of Ballina before getting their minds on the job.

The home side fought back, as we all hoped they would, but the Seagulls were never likely to accommodate their hosts by falling in a heap. The final score of 28–16 to Ballina was a fair reflection of the contest and, in truth, the Bay have only themselves to blame.

The Devils’ prop James Griffiths on the burst at red Devil Park.
The Devils’ prop James Griffiths on the burst at red Devil Park.

The Red Devils had accumulated 100 points in their previous two outings, one of which was a trouncing of the premiers Murwillumbah.

Climbing the ladder to be genuine contenders, they would have been champing at the bit to take on the heavyweights from the south but, not to put too fine a point on it, their first twenty minutes were dreadful.

‘You’re like Moses lost in the desert!’ bellowed the Old Bloke, finding a perfect analogy for the Devils’ aimlessness and lack of drive in the opening exchanges. By comparison, Ballina went at them like a single-minded brushcutter.

The Bay were awarded penalties in the first two sets, but were unable to take advantage of the ref’s generosity and soon found themselves constantly fighting a rearguard action from within their own half. All of their fifth-tackle options were clearing rather than attacking kicks and, if anything, they did well to keep Ballina within sight.

Makeshift winger Peter Flannery has a dig for the Bay.
Makeshift winger Peter Flannery has a dig for the Bay.

A swing in possession dominance eventually led to half-back Ben Webber and prop Simon Kelly crossing for the Devils and allowing them to go to the sheds behind by only 16–10 – a ledger that f

lattered them enormously.

Up there with League’s favourite clichés is ‘they have to score first after the break’. It applied perfectly.

Byron did – and didn’t.

Ballina were in under the posts from a bomb – never mind that half of the chasers were a mile offside – and, though nobody would say it, 22–10 was always a bridge too far for an unconvincing home side against an outfit that was not inclined to loosen its grip.

The Devils’ Hemi Mullen is wrapped up by Ballina’s Clarence Kelly at Red Devil park on Sunday.
The Devils’ Hemi Mullen is wrapped up by Ballina’s Clarence Kelly at Red Devil park on Sunday.

From the resumption, Byron kicked out on the full, an error which typified a performance that was never without commitment, but neither was it ever cohesive and likely to prevail.

A four-pointer to rookie William Goldsmith got the Devils close, but the hope it inspired was a pie in the sky and, with seven minutes to go, the Seagulls produced a runaway try in the corner to their right-winger which, with the beautiful conversion from the sideline, put the Devils back in their place.

It was a good game of footy, if frustrating for the red corner.

Byron can do much better. They’ll need to.



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