Byron Bay Rugby Union played out a tough win against fellow top-four team Lennox Head on Saturday.
The game was played in wet, muddy conditions and in front of a large crowd as Lennox hosted their annual charity game, in which they raised more than $3,000 for local charities.
The wet ground meant that it was going to be a big day at the office for both forward packs as the lateral ball movement would be limited owing to the slippery conditions.
Byron Bay got off to a great start as they played out the first 20 minutes with high intensity and strong running. Momentum carried the Bay deep into Trojan territory and a scrum on the 5-metre line allowed the Byron pack to dominate Lennox and carry Number 8 Craig Wallace over the line for the Bay’s first try.
Byron was quick to capitalise on their strong start as some fast ball movement and clever set plays had Brandon Lewsey and Chris Ealey linking up to send the Captain Harvey Bell courageously barrelling over the line for the Bay’s second try. Brandon converted the kick to put the Bay in front 12–0 with 20 minutes on the clock.
Byron wasn’t quite finished and some clever work from the forwards from an attacking lineout had the Trojans back-tracking as a running maul paved the way for Craig Wallace to break away and score in the corner for his second try of the game.
With the scores at 17–0 Lennox Head needed to up their game to respond to the strengthening Byron pack, which they did through hard, gritty rugby.
Byron found themselves back pedalling at a rate of knots as some strong running from the Trojans was matched by a high penalty count against the Bay at the hands of referee Al Thomas.
A number of tough penalties allowed Lennox to stay in contention via the boot of Conner Winchester and when the half-time whistle was blown the scores were set at 17–9.
The second half was played out in an arena of mud. A number of handling errors plagued the game as both teams battled it out in the middle of the pitch. The trying conditions resulted in tempers flaring and after a scuffle broke out involving players from both teams it was Byron’s Craig Wallace who was the sole recipient of a yellow card. Lennox Head used the opportunity to bridge the gap on the scoreboard and with a successful kick the margin was reduced to 17–12.
Even with only 14 players on the field the Trojans could not penetrate Byron’s defensive line, despite their high possession rate.
Some counterattacking runs from Byron, led by Aaron Shakeshaft and Eddie O’Hare, eased the defensive pressure and when a penalty was awarded to Byron within range Brandon Lewsey stepped up and slotted it to extend out the lead.
Despite two late yellow cards, which saw the game finished with 14 players a side, the game finished at 20–12.
Byron secured the win in extremely trying conditions and further emphasised their heart and desire to win despite the circumstances.
Best on field for the blue and white was flanker Eddie O’Hare, with mentions given to Will Aisake, Craig Wallace and Miles Wood – who in his first game starting for the Bay on the wing was reminiscent of a young Jonah Lomu.
Byron Bay’s next encounter will be an exciting one with the local grudge match against Bangalow at home. Hopefully the sun will be shining but if not there will be plenty of food and beverages to keep you warm as we cheer on our boys in blue and white. Kick-off is at 3.15pm at the Byron Bay Recreational Ground.
Go The Bay!