If you can keep your feet warm, you’ve got half the battle won. It’s an adage all footy tragics swear by when attending games on nights as cold and damp as last Friday’s at Red Devil Park.
Despite the miserable conditions, a goodly crowd estimated at 2,292 came to witness the NRRRL clash between Byron and Evans Head – a fixture postponed from earlier in the season owing to inclement weather.
It was a cracking encounter, with both combatants going at it hammer and tong for the entire eighty minutes. Evans Head ran out winners by 20–14 and though the Devils can consider themselves unlucky it is also fair to say that the Bombers earned their victory and are riding high on the ladder through more than just chance.
We have reached a juncture in the comp that Matthew Elliot refers to as ‘the foggy rounds’ – you can no longer see where you started but are unable to make out where you’ll finish. The loss will hurt Byron, for the boys have had to cope with a difficult draw to establish themselves as contenders and are now left with not a lot of room for error in the jostling for a spot in the finals. Friday showed that, if they can maintain that sort of intensity, they will surely make the top five.
Both sides started like houses on fire. The Devils went in mob-handed in defence and covered with unstinting commitment. A lesser opponent might have wilted, but Evans gave as good as they got and were first to score when their winger snaffled up a kick into the southeastern corner.
A sin-binning after an ill-disciplined but entirely harmless bit of push and shove left the Devils a man down for ten minutes and it was while short-handed that the Bombers increased their lead to 10–0. Having thirteen on the paddock is essential when the whips are cracking.
Byron, appearing a little disheartened, needed to cross before the break and they were invited in when Evans were penalised for jumping the gun from a goal-line droppy. The Bay’s hooker, Tyler Blanch ‘Dubois’, one of their best on the night, scrambled over from dummy half and Joey ‘Flash’ Gordon’s conversion made it 10–6.
Lifted by the momentum swing, it was the Devils who now were full of fire and brimstone. Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell, a captain who leads from the front and is in everything but a bath, snuck in for a four-pointer and the sides went to the sheds at 10–all.
The second forty was nip and tuck, with Byron having a couple of disastrous 50/50 calls go against them. Fortunately, the try they conceded had nothing to do with a ref’s call – the Bombers’ half-back chipped, chased, regathered and sent a long, inch-perfect pass to his winger who only needed to catch the pill and fall over the line. It was a lovely piece of football.
With the wind in their sails, Evans scored again before Byron’s Fraser ‘Fletcher’ Jones was rewarded for his efforts with a late try.
It was a hard loss to swallow, but the boys will rebound from it.