BYRON Bay rugby has moved to the top of the ladder after an epic 25-15 win against previously undefeated Grafton.
Byron had to reshuffle its ranks, with playmaker Tom Sandstrom moving to flanker and centre Steve Lennon playing second row against the biggest pack in the competition.
Frank Kearney bravely came into the backline despite ankle and shoulder injuries. But the Bay seems to find its best in adversity.
Sharpshooter Nathan Nicholls converted two early penalties to give Byron a reward for early pressure. Then electrifying winger Harry Hancock brought the 300-strong crowd to its feet when he rounded the defence to score the opening try.
Grafton came back into the game on the stroke of halftime through an intercept try to trail by 13-7.
The second half was not for the faint-hearted. After Nicholls chased down a clever kick to score the contest seemed all but over.
But after Grafton reverted to an edge of the law style of tackling and ruck play Kearney limped from the field and prop Wal Andrews was red carded.
Grafton was given another lifeline when they scored from a charge-down. Byron continued to move the ball around and the best back three in the competition - Hancock, Mitch Loane and Sean Reilly looked dangerous at every touch. Fullback Reilly chanced his arm to run through the tired Grafton chasers and Steve Lennon supported before executing a perfect draw pass to release Hancock to run 40 metres down the grandstand touchline.
It was another test of Byron's mettle and a promising sign of things to come. Best for the Bay were Reilly and Hancock, well supported by captain Tom Homer, Pete Shaw, Josh Smith, Kane O'Regan and the unstoppable Lennon.
The Bay have the bye and will enjoy a week of rehab (for injuries) before travelling to Evans Head in a fortnight.
- Arthur Baker
It was a promising sign of things to come