Bay one game from Cup
By MARK ROBINSON TURSA Anzac Cup holders Byron Bay and reigning premiers Richmond Rovers have set up a semi-final showdown in Football FNC's pre-season competition, after both sides finished their pool matches undefeated with wins in the third and final round yesterday.
The Bay downed Italo Stars 2-0 at Bangalow to give themselves a chance of their fourth title in six years, while Rovers struggled to assert themselves against the tenacious Lismore Thistles, before eventually emerging with a 2-1 home win in the East Lismore derby.
Byron took an early lead against Stars when Bruce Morhaus burst down the left flank and blasted an acutely angled shot into the roof of the net.
The Rams should have led by a greater margin by half-time but for the woodwork and some wayward finishing and they continued to waste chances in the second half, before Tom Ruhl finally wrapped up the win with their second goal.
Richmond Rovers win over Thistles looked in doubt until a late goal from Ian McGregor wrapped up a tight match.
The premiers took the lead after 20 minutes when Tim Casagrande turned two defenders inside out before hitting a clean finish past Blues 'keeper Mitchell Pickford.
Thistles equalised by half-time after a Darren Beardow cross opened up space for Tom Boland to finish, which was a fitting reward for the Blues determination to keep the ball on the ground and maintain possession.
As the second half wore on Thistles inexperienced young side kept themselves in the match with some improved defence and plenty of running in attack, but as they so often do, the premiers did just enough to win, when Tim Casagrande curled a corner towards Ian McGregor at the far post to head home the winning goal
Ballina, Lennox in mix for Cup final
AN Anzac Cup semi-final awaits local rivals Lennox Head and Ballina, following the Sharks' 5-2 home win over Lismore Workers and the Seahorses' 2-1 away win over Goonellabah.
Lennox showed just why they went into their clash with the Redmen as hot favourites, with a comprehensive win that should have been even bigger.
Five different goal-scorers found their way through Workers threadbare defence, with Peter O'Neill, Paul Kirkland, Ben Andrews, Matt Jolliffe and Andrew Lundie all finding the net.
Ballina had to work a little harder for their win over Goonellabah and trailed 1-0 at the break, after Dave Arnett continued his good early form with another goal for the Hornets.
But the experience of Troy Percival up front came to the seasiders aid, with their new signing scoring an equaliser before clinching a late winner from the penalty spot.
Bangalow has ended its Anzac Cup campaign undefeated but will not feature in the semis, despite a 3-1 home win over Pottsville yesterday.
Draws in the first two games killed off their hopes, but the Bluedogs still look well-prepared for the premiership season ahead. Young flanker Conner Benfield showed his potential with two goals, a first time hit from a Tom Inoue ball and then a header after a Sebastian Bell shot rebounded off the crossbar.
Remarkably, the Bluedogs' third goal also came after Bell hit the woodwork, this time Joel Rudgley was on hand to nod in the scraps.