Story & photos Dogwhistle
An upset in the weekend’s meeting of the Northern Hotel Byron Bay Rams and sixth-placed Goonellabah has seen the Rams lose their undefeated status and cleared the way second place Richmond Rovers to challenge for the 2015 pointscore championship.
The day started well for the Rams with a masterful display from the Reserves. Despite conceding a goal to Goonellabah against the early run of play, the Byron boys completely outclassed the Hornets for much of the game.
The scoring opened for Byron with a blistering cross from Tane Meek that found Herick Schuenemann arriving at speed to deliver an unstoppable equaliser. The Rams took the lead early in the second half with a cross from Will Ennis headed home by Emanuele Altarvi.
Pouncing on a goalmouth rebound, Will Ennis made it three for Byron. Midway through the second half, Steve Kirkpatrick overtook a retreating Goonellabah defender, stole the ball and beat the keeper for a cheeky fourth goal. Kirkpatrick set up goal number five, crossing to Emanuele Altarvi, who took his second for the day.
Will Ennis took his second and the Rams’ sixth with a cleanly executed penalty after Kirkpatrick was felled in the box.
The top-squad match looked like delivering more of the same. The Rams comfortably dominated the play through the first half but, despite many dangerous attacking plays, couldn’t manage to crack the Goonellabah defence and ‘keeper.
Just before half time, in a virtual replay of the Reserves first goal, Sam Owens outpaced the Hornets’ defence, blasted a cross to Kazuhiro Tsukamoto, who buried the ball in the Goonellabah net.
With the stage set for another big second half for the Rams, the Goonellabah coach must have delivered a particularly rousing half-time speech. With their semifinal hopes on the line, the Hornets took to the task with a vengeance and began hammering the Byron defence from the restart kickoff.
Things went pear shaped ten minutes in when a long floating lob cleared Rams keeper Chris Jones, slipped under the bar and slid down the net to give the Hornets an equaliser. Moments later, a long-range throw in cleared the rattled Rams defenders to be nodded in by Goonellabah striker Batok Ring.
An upset was suddenly in the wind, and Byron struggled to regain its composure in the face of the fired-up Hornets onslaught. The Rams conceded a penalty on the closing minutes and the shot beat keeper Jones and sealed the Rams’ first loss of the season.
A philosophical coach Jeremy Sutton (‘It had to happen eventually’) now faces a real challenge from second-placed Richmond Rovers in the penultimate round of the season.
With the Minor Premiership now up for grabs, it should be the match of the year – a replay of last year’s grand final and quite possibly a rehearsal for this year’s!
Reserves kick off Sunday at 12.30pm and the Prems at 2.30.