Byron Bay on track
By MARK ROBINSON
REIGNING premiers Byron Bay remain on track to claim their first Football FNC Tursa Premier League Anzac Cup trophy since winning consecutive titles in 2003-04, thanks to a 3-2 home win over local rivals Lennox Head.
The win virtually seals Byron's place in the Cup semi-finals but didn't come easily, with the Rams having to come from behind after Lennox Head took an early lead.
A swirling cross from new signing Peter Edwards sailed over Rams keeper Kai Connell for the opening goal, but only served to spark Byron into life as they hit back with two goals by half-time.
A series of passes set up Jonathan Pierce to get behind the Sharks defence and his run to the line and cut back found Todd Knaus for a clinical finish.
The second came from Brazilian Thiago Priori, after Pierce was once again involved with the cross.
A penalty from Aaron Richter Steers soon after the restart gave the Rams a match-winning 3-1 margin, but the Sharks never stopped trying and a late goal from Paul Kirkland made the last few minutes tense for the Bay.
Todd Knaus had another strong game for Byron in midfield, while flanker Jonathan Pierce showed great strength on the ball and looks set for a big season.MACLEAN continues to show good early form, with a 2-1 win over reigning Anzac Cup champions Goonellabah on the Hornets' home turf all but sealing the Bobcats' place in the semis.
Maclean has won both minor and major premierships, but never an Anzac Cup and in their final season in the league would love to etch their name on the trophy for the hat-trick.
The Bobcats' cohesion and fast-paced game got the better of Goonellabah from the start and they raced to a 2-0 lead with first-half goals from Kevin Crofton and Aaron Bylos.
Daniel Morrow clawed one back for the Hornets before the break, but Maclean continued to have the better of play in the second half, with their ability to hold possession for longer periods frustrating the Hornets attempts to get back into the game.
Stars v Rovers
ITALO STARS' superior fitness and ability to hold their shape has allowed them to claim a convincing 3-0 win over arch-rivals Richmond Rovers at Barrow Lane.
Stars played a tight, disciplined game, while Rovers looked sluggish, conceding the first goal to Stars' new signing from Casino, Zac Innes.
Innes received the ball wide on the half-way mark, beat his marker and surged forward, exchanging passes with several players before blasting the ball into the roof of the net.
Stars were twice denied by the crossbar, before extending their lead in the second half when Jamie Austen met a Jake Pratten corner with a scorching shot for their second goal.
Wayne Mortimer relished his return to striking duties, netting Stars' third goal after being released by a deft through ball from Max Latimer.
Troy Williams was strong in defence and will be an asset this year after his return, while Innes looked threatening up front and Jamie Austen was as solid as ever in midfield.
The win all but assures Stars of a place in the semis.
Bangalow v Workers
BANGALOW is celebrating after securing its first win since returning to the Premier Division, with a 3-1 home victory over Lismore Workers.
Sebastian Bell got the Bluedogs away to the ideal start with the opening goal, beating a defender before slipping the ball past the 'keeper in a one-on-one confrontation.
The Redmen hit back through a blistering, low volley from Anthony Alvos, but then conceded an own goal under pressure to trail 2-1 at the break.
Workers mounted plenty of attacking raids during the second half but failed to capitalise, leaving Bangalow to wrap up the game with a late goal on the counter-attack from Glen Sheldrick.
"The side is rapt to get an early win under the belt. There were plenty of players who stepped up to the mark and produced what we're going to need this season," said coach Damon Bell.
Bell praised holding midfielder Tom Inoue as their standout player, with Sebastian Bell also dangerous and 'keeper Alex Pratt having a big game against his old club.
Byron B v Burringbar
BYRON Bay's Bside has shown just how much depth the Rams have this season with a 1-0 home win over Burringbar on Friday night.
New signing from Sydney, Garath Evans, scored the only goal of a tight match, cracking a first-time volley from 25m that gave the Bandits' 'keeper no chance.
Burringbar had a few long-range chances during the second half, but the Bay held their shape and composure to grind out a deserved win.
One of the Rams' Brazilian signings, Paolo Andrade, looked good in his first appearance at striker, while flanker Blake Mazzer also impressed, along with solid defenders Mitch McGrath and Andy Marks.
Best for the Bandits were midfielders Jamie Morrison and Vincent Steptoe, along with hard-working defender Dean Charman, but coach Grant Wilkins described it as one of their worst games on record, with the Friday night schedule creating problems for many of their players working north of the border.
Ballina v Lennox B
BALLINA will be hoping new signing Shannon Maciejewski can continue to have an impact in attack after setting up their first goal and scoring the second in their 2-0 win over Lennox Head B at Ballina.
The 21-year-old former NSW Schoolboy rep was on hand to flick on a Zac Harris cross for Cerys Hawkins to score their opening goal with a far post header, before netting the Seahorses' second goal after some good build-up play, to wrap up the match in the second half.
The win was built on solid defence, with Josh Jackson, Liam Seymore and Phil Emery giving the Sharks few opportunities in attack.