Rugby League is the toughest sport, with no quarter given or asked. So to win any game, it helps a lot if you’ve got an entire team of fresh players taking the field.
Such wasn’t the case at Cabarita on Saturday. Under a bleak brooding sky, Byron’s Red Devils were forced to throw a number of blokes who had just gone around for the reggies into battle with the Tweed Coast Raiders. Unfortunately, there is only so far club spirit – and there is plenty of it at the Bay – can take you. After going blow for blow with their opponents, a flurry of scoring in the dying moments saw Byron get done 34–16.
The Devils’ hopes of qualifying for the play-offs are now buried, so it was all about pride in the jersey and in their in performance, and the boys did not let themselves or their supporters down. They got the better of the opening exchanges, mixing it with the bigger Raiders outfit – some of Tweed’s backs were enormous – and it came as no surprise when centre Toby ‘Zoats’ Ryan, dapper in his rah-rah head tape, sprinted away at the end of a sustained passing rush to open the scoring for the Devils.
Tweed hit back almost immediately and a high-quality game of thrust and parry evolved. It soon became apparent that the Raiders’ kicking for field position was more astute – ironically through the boot of former Devil Jared ‘Monsieur’ De Thierry – and when their hooker crossed for a converted try to make it 12–4, Byron might well have thought themselves to be up that malodorous creek. But they kept at it, and through bullish tackling they forced an error that saw the ball in the grateful arms of winger Jasmin Purtell ‘California’, who hared away for a try in the corner. Joey ‘The General’ Gordon’s conversion brought it back to 12–10 but, sadly for the Devils, it was the last time that they would trouble the scorers.
The second forty followed an annoyingly familiar script.
Byron emerged from the sheds with steel in their eyes and plenty of grunt in their effort. They worked hard for each other – Joseph ‘The Senator’ McCarthy barked encouragement from fullback, captain Ryan ‘The Crab’ O’Connell marshalled his troops around the ruck and prop Chris ‘Jawbone’ Kelly threatened to run through a brick wall – but as fatigue began to take its toll, the unforced errors that the boys are prone to, crept in. Worse than that, the ref, who had hitherto let the teams sort themselves out, suddenly took a dislike to the Devils and blew a string of penalties against them. The Raiders, as any good side will, capitalised on their windfall of possession to go out to 16–10, but still the Bay persisted. Kicking boldly from a scrum almost resulted in the flying Brad ‘Bruce’ Lees retrieving the bouncing pill for what would have been an outrageous try, but it was ‘goodnight nurse’ after that.
But the score was in no way an indication of the struggle.
Sunday’s trip to Ballina won’t be any easier, but the Devils are ripe to cause an upset.
Go the Bay!