The Bay played host to reigning premiers Wollongbar–Alstonville on Saturday in the latest instalment of Far North Coast Rugby Union.
Byron was chasing their fifth win in a row and going into the match, the two teams sitting equal second on the points table.
The game promised to be a hard-hitting affair and from the first whistle a bone-crunching tackle set the tempo for what was going to be a great game of rugby.
The first 10 minutes were evenly matched as both teams tussled for metres.
The Pioneers managed an early line break after some fast ball movement from fly half Ben Damon sent their winger streaking down the side line toward a certain try, only to be denied by some classic Mitch Loane cover defence. A quick turnover and clearance kick provided a short reprieve for the Bay; however, a number of lengthy phases from Wollongbar tested Byron’s defence again.
Another turnover and some solid counter-attacking rugby pushed the Bay into the Pioneers’ half of the field and a penalty in front of the posts resulted in Sion King taking first points for the Bay with a superb penalty kick.
The 3–0 deficit on the scoreboard kicked Wollongbar into gear and from the restart they reapplied the pressure. Both teams’ forward packs produced some big hits but Wollongbar gradually crept forward.
Some desperate defence from the Bay resulted in an uncharacteristic yellow card for Byron Bay tough guy Troy Wynter who was sent from the field for 10mins.
The Pioneers drew level with a penalty kick, which was closely followed by a converted try as Wollongbar took advantage of a 14-man defensive line.
As the halftime whistle blew both teams were grabbing for the water, with the scores tight at 10–3. As the players struggled to capture their breath the supporters replenished their food and drink supply in anticipation of a lively second half.
Once again Wollongbar lifted their tempo from the kick-off and some lengthy phases had Byron enduring some tough defensive work. Despite the prolonged defensive effort, the unrelenting Pioneers’ attack proved too strong with their winger scoring a try in the corner.
Byron fought back through some strong forward pressure and another act of poor discipline from Wollongbar gave Byron the chance to put another three points on the board. Unfortunately the kick was wayward, striking the upright and rebounding into the relieved hands of the Pioneers.
The miss proved further costly for the Bay as Wollongbar regrouped to score another try under the posts shortly after to extend their lead 24–3.
The typical Byron never-say-die attitude was reignited, led by some strong running from Josh Smith and Charles Woollard.
The Byron back line displayed some class out wide with the ever-familiar presence of Harvey Bell looming in support to cross the line in the corner for the Bay’s first try. A lovely conversion by Sion King tipped the scores at 24–10.
The Bay kept the pressure on into the dying minutes of the game as they chased a bonus point but time was against them and as the final whistle was blown the game finished at 24–10.
A number of injuries and a lot of sore bodies highlighted the physicality of the game. The Bay can certainly hold their heads high in defeat and despite the close loss they still sit third on the overall points table.
Best on field for the Bay was Josh Smith in his first game back for the blue and white this year. Also taking home points was Charles Woollard, Brandon Lewsey and Will Aisake.
The lads have a well-deserved break after that brutal encounter for the June long weekend.
The action returns on 13 June in Ballina for a 3.30pm kick-off. The Seahorses currently sit in first place so it will be another unmissable game of rugby union. As always, Go The Bay!