Byron lands a blow

By DARREN MONCRIEFF

IN TERMS of psychological blows, Byron Bay has landed a significant one on rivals and Retravision Northern League leaders Ballina, upsetting the more-fancied Seagulls 22-12 at Red Devil Park yesterday.

It is a win that could entrench the Red Devils in the top five, where they've been in all but one week of the 2007 season. Byron coach Vince Nicklin played that card to his boys before kick-off, stressing the importance that a win here over fellow contenders would set the Red Devils up for a decent run towards the finals.

"There were no special words from me before the game only stressing to the boys that it was a must-win game and that we need to perform as a team or else we could be out of the top five," Nicklin said.

"There's still five games to go until the semi finals and you'd like to be in that top two or three spot to have two bites of the cherry.

"I think, psychologically, they (Ballina) were a bit shocked. They might've come here expecting to win. It's early days yet but after today's effort, if we keep that up ..."

The Red Devils are building some kind of momentum with a one-point loss to Casino the only hiccup in the past four weeks.

"It was also a really important day for us. We had a good crowd at home with great support and the players wanted to lift for them and the coaching staff and give something back to them," Nicklin said.

"We've copped some criticism in the past by dropping games and letting sides back in when we've been leading so just to get that consistency going was a good effort.

Byron shocked the Seagulls with a spirited start and were up 10-6 at the break before consolidating in the second.

Nicklin swung fullback Nathan Cross to five-eighth, where he said he added great value to the team's performance, but they also lost front-rower Reece Vincent with an elbow dislocation, his second this season.

"I thought Ash Laffranchi in the front-row stepped up with added responsibility and Simon Kelly played one of his better games," Nicklin said.

"Full credit to Dwayne Cahill, too. He's improved over the past couple of week and he's come off the bench and scored a try for us today."

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HOW to keep your side from becoming complacent after they've flogged another by almost 100 points has been with us ever since 19th Century man first made pig's bladders into footballs and kept a tally of points.

That job this week has fallen to Marist Brothers coach David Krause after the Rams handed out a 98-point thumping to an undermanned and overwhelmed South Grafton side at Oakes Oval on Saturday.

With a crucial game next week for the Brethren, how Krause refocusses his charges will be key to how they fare.

"That's at the back of my mind," he said.

"But the blokes are switched on. They're aware of that (complacency) becoming an issue. Plus, we've got bigger fish to fry."

While even the most ardent opposition fan can sympathise with a rival getting belted every which way on the park, Saturday's game offered Krause the chance to experiment.

He brought in a few youngsters from the under-18s and watched on with interest.

"You don't want to belittle your opponent and you've still got to respect them but we've all been at the end of beltings like that and it was one of those situations where we got to try a few things out," Krause said.

Scoreboard: Byron Bay 22 d Ballina 12, Marist Brothers 100 d South Grafton 6, Murwillumbah 42 d Kyogle 12, Grafton Ghosts 28 d Casino RSM 26, Tweed Coast Raiders 35 d Lower Clarence 24, Cudgen 16 d South Tweed Heads 48. Mullumbimby: Bye.

Ladder: Ballina 20, Mullumbimby 19, Tweed Coast 18, Byron Bay 16, Murwillumbah 16, Marist Brothers 16, Lower Clarence 14, South Tweed 14, Casino RSM 12, Grafton Ghosts 10, Kyogle 9, Cudgen 2, South Grafton 2.



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