MATCH REPORT: Shootout ends Rams dreams but Ressies win
IN THE tangled words of US baseball legend Yogi Berra "it was deja vu all over again" at last weekend's Football Far North Coast Premier League Grand Final, with the Northern Hotel Rams' last-gasp loss to arch rivals Richmond Rovers in a penalty shootout.
This is the second time in two years the two teams got down to a shootout after they were two goals apiece at full-time, and once again the Rovers prevailed.
The evening started out well for the Rams, with the reserve grade taking to the muddy pitch determined to reverse 2014's grand final loss to arch rival and point score champions Richmond Rovers.
The Oakes Oval crowd were treated to an entertaining display of fast, fluid, high quality football as Byron outclassed their Lismore opposition.
Two minutes into the opening session, Connor Cannon opened the scoring, pouncing on a rebound and driving home a superb, 25-metre strike.
A moment later, a flawless Rams attacking build-up finished with a cross to Herick Schuenmann, who finished cleanly, giving Byron an early two-goal lead.
Twenty minutes in, a long lofting shot from Rovers sailed over Byron's birthday boy, keeper Isaac Askew, taking the score to 2-1 and putting Rovers back in the game.
The Byron dominance continued into the second half, however, and seven minutes in, a shot from George Martin rebounded off the keeper only to be driven home by the referees' man of the match, Kazahiro Tsukamoto. Five minutes later, a flanking run from Jonathan Pierce and a cross found Conor Cannon, who took the final score to a decisive 4-1 and gave the ressies their first silverware in some years.
The premier division Rams began their big challenge, looking to be in equally good form.
A soaring tandem leap from Michael Kelly and James Tomlinson in the opening minutes saw Kelly get a head to a corner from Sam Owens to put the Rams ahead 1-0.
The strength and pace of Rams' striking duo James Tomlinson and Tyson Kaye kept the pressure on the Rovers defence, but it was Rovers who scored next with an unstoppable drive 40 minutes in.
Tomlinson responded minutes later with a powerful run, brushing off the Rovers defenders, sprinting 40 metres to the Lismore goal and slotting home Byron's second.
The second half looked like bringing more of the same but Rovers were determined not to let the Rams have their way.
The Lismore squad took the play up a notch and, abandoning their trademark long-ball strategy, made life difficult for the Byron defence with a relentless attack.
Only an outstanding performance Rams keeper Chris Jones kept Byron in the game.
Byron kept up their attack but, despite several opportunities, couldn't find the vital third goal. Late in the second half, Rovers equalised, forcing the match, once again, into extra time.
The heavy conditions took their toll on both sides and an intense and exhausting 20-minute struggle failed to produce a winning goal.
In the final shootout the exhaustion on both sides was clearly telling and, after some uncharacteristic misses from the Rams, Rovers took out the win.
A disappointing loss for the point-score champions but a well-earned win for Rovers.