Thistles, Rams bring grand finals energy to season openers
LAST year's top two sides Lismore Thistles and Byron Bay picked up where they left off when the 2014 Football FNC men's premier division season kicked off.
Thistles and the Rams racked up big wins in the opening round of the new season on Saturday.
Thistles outclassed Alstonville 6-1 at Crawford Park, while the Rams notched up an identical scoreline in their home win over premier league new boys Tintenbar-East Ballina.
The Blues dominated from the outset against Villa, racing to a 5-0 half-time lead before coasting home in the second half.
Left flanker Matt Armstrong used his blistering pace and devastating left-foot shot to score a hat-trick, with Jake Nind, Josh Wraight and Max Hospers also finding their way through Villa's leaky defence.
Zak Illife scored a consolation goal for Villa, but coach Mark Ambler was surprised by his side's poor performance.
"I'm extremely disappointed, we just didn't turn up for whatever reason," he said.
"Credit to Thistles who put in a great performance."
Byron Bay gave Tintenbar a baptism of fire in their inaugural appearance in the premier league.
Strikers James Tomlinson and Conner Cannon scored two goals apiece, with Dakota Dixon King and Herick Schuenemann also on the scoresheet as the Rams cruised to a comfortable win.
Although happy with his side's win, Rams coach Damon Bell still saw potential in the 'Bar's performance.
"They defended as a unit and looked to counter when they could," he said.
"I think there were some promising signs for them once they adjust to the pace of the game in premiers."
Steven Clifford will go down as the 'Bar's first goalscorer in the top flight, with coach Dwayne Smith encouraged by their performance.
"We're on a steep learning curve at the moment but our time will come," he said.
Bangalow also started their campaign with a big home win, downing Goonellabah 6-0.
Taha Belaazziz bagged a hat-trick, with Joel Rudgley, Ryan O'Connor and Reece Bramley also finding the net.
Newly promoted Ballina was hoping to make a successful return to the top flight but suffered a 4-2 away loss to a determined Lennox Head.
Goals from Sam Ireland, Zeke Hodges, Kyle Kingston and Paul Kirkland, who has come out of retirement, guaranteed the Sharks a solid win.