Story & photo John Campbell
In rugby league, it is not uncommon to hear the losing side attempt to console themselves with ‘at least we won the second half’. The truth is, that pathetic old lament is not worth the toilet paper on which it is smeared.
If the Byron Bay Red Devils resorted to it on Sunday, after coming back from 20–nil at the break to be beaten 32–16 by the Casino Cougars at Queen Elizabeth Park, they had better take a reality check quick smart, because for most of the afternoon, when we were all meant to celebrating the beauty and the wonder of motherhood, they played like old molls.
With their last fixture washed out and postponed to a later date, the Devils travelled west with their NRRRL card reading two victories and one defeat. After trouncing the premiers Ballina in Round One, but appearing to have dropped back a gear, the boys needed to show that they were more than just show ponies against a workmanlike Cougars outfit.
They looked keen in the warm-up and oozed confidence, but as the great Mike Tyson observed, ‘everyone’s got a plan until someone punches them in the face’. Metaphorically speaking, Casino punched Byron in the face with an early try and the boys reacted like headless chooks thereafter. Let us pray that they will not turn in another half of footy as bad as last Sunday’s first forty.
A couple of wayward passes was all the encouragement the Cougars needed to jump to the lead. The boys in maroon then capitalised on one of their visitors’ countless fumbles for an alarmingly easy barge-over try to make it 10–0, and when their dummy half put his head down and crossed through an on-line defence that would have struggled to repel an under-8s charge, the writing was on the wall.
The Cougars’ second-rower and captain, Damien Benn, a brutish fellow who would not take no for an answer and who, along with their full-back with the the zombie haircut, troubled the Bay all arvo, was next to score. He put his foot on the pedal and stormed through the ruck. Easy as that.
Footy fans always live by a fanciful logic, so Byron supporters would have thought that, behind 20–0 at oranges, things might have been worse.
For their part, before returning to the fray, the Devils did one of those huddles that look good on stage but rarely amount to anything. The attitude and application that they didn’t show in the first half failed to miraculously appear in the second.
They were unable to complete their first two sets, got a relieving penalty but couldn’t put it into touch and, in general, gave the impression that what they had worked hardest on at training during the week was playing like klutzes.
Out of the blue, Joey Gordon took an intercept and ran eighty metres for a try, but the iceberg had already struck and the ship was on the way down.
Further tries to Brad Lees and Fraser Jones only made the final score less embarrassing.