So near and yet so far for Devils against comp frontrunners

The Devils captain, Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell found himself in a spot of bother at Evans Head on Saturday.

The Devils captain, Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell found himself in a spot of bother at Evans Head on Saturday.

Story & photos John Campbell

Winning becomes a habit. The Evans Head Bombers, an honest but not outstanding team, have acquired it. Byron Bay’s Red Devils have gone cold turkey on it.

Saturday’s NRRRL clash between the two sides at Stan Payne Oval was a classic example of one being able to find a way to victory and the other unable to grasp it when it was virtually in the palm of their hand.

Byron’s Chris ‘Jawbone’ Coleman and captain Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell bring down a Bomber at Evans Head.

Byron’s Chris ‘Jawbone’ Coleman and captain Ryan ‘the Crab’ O’Connell bring down a Bomber at Evans Head.

A try at the death to make the final score 14–12 saw Evans Head maintain its position at the top of the ladder and condemn the Devils to further purgatory. But it must be said that the Bombers would not have been in a position get the try had they not been the beneficiary of an outrageous 50/50 call going their way – it is a fact universally accepted that the battlers are always the recipients of the raw prawn from the ref.   

The Bay had put in a mighty effort. From the outset, the boys’ enthusiasm and commitment was up 100 per cent on their previous outing. The talk among them was keen and supportive, the attention to detail obvious.

The Bombers crossed early, but the Devils did not drop their heads, as they have been wont to do on too many occasions this season. Instead they put it to their hosts and, on the back of a humungous surge from Chris ‘Jawbone’ Coleman, who had a whale of a game, Will ‘Hayseed’ Haylock bustled over from dummy-half. Sam ‘Tin Legs’ Barnes’s conversion gave Byron a 6–4 lead that they held till the break.

The Bombers upped the ante in the second stanza, but the Devils were equal to the challenge, repelling all that was thrown at them.

The Red wall was cracked eventually, but the travelling supporters’ fear of collapse was soon dispelled by the Bay’s fight back. Nobody flinched, but special mention must be made of full-back Callum ‘Indiana’ Jones.

Having already played in the 18s, Jones showed tremendous poise and confidence under the bomb, made a crucial try-saving tackle and pinched the ball from a Bomber as he was about to plant it over the line.

Of the forwards, none was better than Coleman. His trademark hit-ups had plenty of Bombers looking the other way all afternoon and the four-pointer he got to give Byron the lead was well earned. Not far behind him was hooker Tom ‘Deano’ Martin, who has been one of the Bay’s most consistent performers throughout their annus horribilis.  

Leading 12–10 with the clock ticking down, the Devils were headed for a stirring and just victory. The whistleblower’s shonky intervention put paid to that and Evans Head stole the game with a scabby try in the corner.

If losing also can become a habit, the Red Devils showed that they are well and truly ready to break free of it.

On Saturday they host Marist Brothers. The game will coincide with an old boys’ reunion and a gathering of the Men of League, with guests Kevin Junee and Johnny Mayes in attendance. It should be a ripper afternoon – be there!


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