The Northern Hotel Byron Bay Rams came out firing in Saturday’s FFA Cup qualifying final at Lismore’s Southern Cross Football Centre.
The in-form Byron squad met Coffs Coast Tigers on the synthetic turf in the battle for a place in the next round of the FFA Cup Championships.
The Rams hit the Tigers hard from the opening whistle, with two dangerous runs on the Tigers’ goal and two corners within the first two minutes.
Five minutes in and the Rams took their first point with a free kick from Thiago Priori finding the head of Gianluca Bongiovanni, whose perfect deflection left no chance for the Coffs keeper.
Despite completely dominating the play, the rest of the opening session was a frustrating affair for the Rams, with countless attacking moves failing to find the net.
The drought broke early in the second half when a hard tackle brought down Sam Shepherd in the Tigers’ box. Bongiovanni stepped up and scored the penalty to take a 2–0 lead.
Some clumsy passing from the Byron boys turned attack into a scrambling defence shortly after. The Tigers took advantage of the lapse and gained glimmer of hope with a surprise goal.
The Rams quickly regained control of the match and turned up the heat on the hapless Tigers.
Midway through the second half, Sam Shepherd broke through the Coffs defence with a 40-metre run before crossing to Bongiovanni who smoothly slotted in his third.
Jono Pierce came off the bench to lob a spectacular shot from near the halfway that cleared the keeper to make it 4–1. A corner from Pierce in the final moments of the match reached Simon McCarthy on the back post, who headed the ball back across goal onto the boot of Bongiovanni, who tapped in his fourth and sealed an emphatic 5–1 victory for the Rams.
The win takes the Rams through to the Newcastle round of finals over the June 10 long weekend and a chance to take on some heavy hitters from the National Premier League.
In the meantime, the busy Byron squad heads to Lismore this Saturday to meet traditional rivals Richmond Rovers in the regular season comp.
Reserves kick off at 1pm and the Prems at 3pm.