Byron Bay Rugby make first grade semis
BYRON Bay rugby has made the First Grade semi-finals after last Saturday's a drama charged final round of competition.
After Ballina produced an upset win against Wollongbar either Byron or Lennox would be eliminated if they lost by more than seven in their match.
In front of the biggest home crowd of the season the Bay were led by Rob Lynch who was making his 100th appearance for the club.
Regular captain and new father Pete Shaw was rested after injuring his finger midweek.
Byron also brought man mountain Rafer Smith into the starting back row.
Smith was fresh from altitude training at Tomorrowland in Belgium and the big Kiwi dispelled any doubts about his stamina with a rousing 80 minute performance.
Byron started with fury and purpose, forcing the champions into error with superior line speed and punishing contact in the tackle.
The Bay appeared to have taken an early lead when both touch judges raised their flags for a successful George Kitching penalty conversion but to the dismay of everyone on the sideline the referee waved it away.
Byron now set their sights on breaching the Trojan's defence and after a period of relentless pressure it was Josh Smith who inevitably barrelled over the line.
The Trojans only option was to kick long for territory and the visitors were brought back into the game when Byron failed to clear the ball from their own line.
A charge down try in the corner and a sideline conversion gave Lennox the lead before Kitching restored Byron's advantage with a penalty goal.
The Bay went further ahead after a simple extra man play was executed with precision to put fullback Kitching over in the corner.
Lennox replied with a clever cross field kick to their right winger and their sideline conversion gave Lennox a 14-13 halftime lead.
With so much at stake the teams settled into a second half of finals intensity football.
Lennox were brought into the game by the Bay's ill-discipline and the stream of penalties that followed.
Ignoring the opportunity for shots at goal, the Trojans tried to kill the game off but Byron's line was impenetrable.
In a compliment to Byron's defence the visitors eventually settled for points with two conversions taking their lead to seven.
Byron had enough territory and possession in the second half to win three matches but when patience and passing was needed the Bay regressed to a form of caveman rugby.
Not satisfied with the wide open spaces on offer the Bay disappointingly searched for gaps in the most congested areas. They were willing but it was wasteful.
In the end Byron were beaten 20-13 but finished the game camped on the Lennox try line.
Lynch led the team magnificently. Kitching was all class at the back.
The Smiths, both Rafer and Josh both made important contributions but the best player on the field was Byron's Craig Wallace.
For Byron fans it would have been a travesty for their team to miss the post season because Byron had beaten Ballina both home and away.
For Byron the individual quality and the team passion are in clear abundance.
If the team can add composure to the mix they may well go deeper into the finals.
As it is there will be a re-match next Saturday in the sudden death semi-final between Byron and Lennox at the neutral venue of Kyogle.
Final standings: 1 Lismore 72 pts, 2 Wolongbar Alstoville 58 pts, 3 Lennox Head 51 pts, 4 Byron Bay 48 pts, 5 Ballina 47 pts, 6 Bangalow 42 pts,7 Grafton 28 pts, 8 Southern Cross University 7 pts, 9 Casino 7 pts.