Story & photos John Campbell
It’s a lousy game of rugby league if you score a hat-trick of tries and your team stills gets done. But such was almost the case for Byron Bay’s dynamic young winger, Hayden ‘Rupert’ Rosenbaum, at Lismore’s Oakes Oval on Sunday.
With not a lot of time on the clock, the Red Devils trailed Marist Brothers by 24–22 in their third-round NRRRL clash, notwithstanding the efforts of Rosenbaum – who has crossed at every start this season.
When the siren finally blew at the end of a gripping second-half, the Devils were winners by 26–24 – a margin that might not have been so nail-biting had they been able to convert more than one of their six tries.
It was a tough encounter in which Marist displayed the grit with which they are traditionally identified, without ever looking like the better side. They stuck at it and capitalised on their opportunities, but the feeling that the Devils had their measure and would eventually assert themselves prevailed. It was just a pity for the Bay’s faithful that they left it so late to do so.
A minute’s ANZAC silence was observed before kick-off and then, on the back of a couple of penalties, the Papists took an early 6–0 lead. The Devils, if sharper and quicker, were a tad over adventurous in their own half and prone to carelessness. They expected to win and were slow to pay their determined hosts the respect any opponent deserves. Before you could bat an eyelid, they trailed 12–0.
Centre Brad ‘Bruce’ Lees scored when regathering a chip from dummy-half, Rosenbaum picked up his first but, just when you thought the world was being put to right, Marist benefited from a colossal balls-up after Byron’s messy response to an otherwise innocuous bomb.
Trailing 18–10 at the break, I noted confidently that the Bay would win ‘if they can secure 50/50 possession’.
Brothers took an eternity to re-emerge from the sheds – ‘did you have an early dinner in there?’ Lees quipped to the Brothers’ hooker – and were soon run down to 18–all following tries to Simon ‘Canine’ Kelly and Rosenbaum. The Devils were all over them and when Lees set up Rosenbaum for his third it was 22–18 and a matter of ‘how far?’
One of the things that we love about sport is how its participants rise to a challenge. The Papists were outclassed, but they would not bend. They dug in, got close to the line and scored from a grubber that was fumbled by Byron’s last line.
The other thing that we love about sport is how it rewards the brave. Going nowhere on a regulation set, the Devils’ bullish centre Sean ‘Mister Bean’ Deaves drew enough tacklers to send his mate Lees on a fantastic sixty-metre sprint to the line. With pace, power and a razor-sharp inside step to beat the desperate cover, Lees secured an epic victory for the Bay.
Get behind them at Red Devil Park on Sunday. They’re good.