Story & photo John Campbell
Byron Bay’s thrilling late-season surge has carried them to within one victory of a memorable premiership triumph.
With rain whipping the ground, the boys clung tenaciously to the lead that they established in the first half to beat a determined but outclassed Kyogle Turkeys by 14–6 in their NRRRL preliminary final at the New Park on Sunday.
Kyogle kicked off with what seemed like the entire population of the town behind them.
Losing second-rower Cale ‘JJ’ Rowston in the warm-up was not the best start to the afternoon’s assignment, but it was clear from the outset that the Devils were focused and in no mood to take prisoners.
On the back of an early penalty, the boys found themselves deep in Kyogle’s territory. Simon ‘Toothless’ Kelly, never shy of taking the first hit-up, stormed the line and, with a bit of an in-and-away, found Sam ‘Dolly’ Dwyer in support. The offload was perfectly timed and Dwyer, as he had done the previous week, opened the scoring with a try under the sticks.
Shortly after, captain Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell sent halfback Ben ‘Spider’ Webber on a headless chook’s run that completely bamboozled the Kyogle defenders and from the next play Hemi ‘Sphere’ Mullen crossed. William ‘Peppi’ Goldsmith was never going to miss either conversion and, ahead 12–0, Byron looked the goods.
The destiny of most footy games can usually be seen to have hung on one crucial event. And so it was here. As half-time loomed, the Bay, defending grimly against a home side benefiting from repeat sets, refused to buckle in the face of Kyogle’s onslaught. The siren sounded for oranges with yet another Turkey having fallen short of the line – Byron’s tackling was one-in-all-in, and no red jersey was found wanting.
Going to the sheds with an advantage of two converted tries was considerably more encouraging for the visitors than had the score been 12–6. The Devils, relieved and exhausted, knew it only too well; the mob in the outer knew it; and, deep down, you suspect the Turkeys knew it too. If they kept their heads they would surely prevail against an opponent that offered little more than extreme effort in attack.
Given the greasy conditions – the New Park is little better than a paddock – the quality of the contest had been as high as you would hope for in a no-hereafter encounter.
Kyogle were the quicker out of the blocks in the second forty. Penalties and possession count for everything these days and, with a glut of the ball, they pressed hard. But Byron were not going to throw it away, and the longer the arm wrestle went the more that became apparent.
A lame chorus of ‘let’s go Turkeys’ (hardly a blood-curdling battle-cry) belatedly came from the locals, but the Devils’ resolve was rock solid.
Goldsmith’s penalty goal twelve from time sealed the deal before the Turkeys scored a consolation, and deserved, try.
The Bay will take on the Seagulls at Ballina next Sunday to determine who are the premiers for 2014. Get off your arses and support them. They deserve it.
Go the Bay!
The results for the weekend were:
18s Kyogle 24 v Marist Brothers 16
Reserve Grade Casino 26 v Kyogle 22
First Grade Byron Bay 14 v Kyogle 6
GRAND FINAL DRAW – Sunday September 14 – Kinsford Smith Park Ballina
18s Murwillumbah v Kyogle
Reserve Grade Murwillumbah v Casino
First Grade Ballina v Byron Bay
Gates open at 9am – Entry $12 per person and under 16s free.
The 18s kick off at 11am
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Winning becomes a habit. The Evans Head Bombers, an honest but not outstanding team, have acquired it. Byron Bay’s Red Devils have gone cold turkey on it.
My dad was a man of few words, but he had an expression: ‘what you need is a good kick up the arse’.
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It’s easy to be a smart arse after the event, isn’t it?