UP FRONT: Byron Bay prop Sonny Filimonehala
UP FRONT: Byron Bay prop Sonny Filimonehala

Gulls win battle of beaches

By STEVE SPINKS

IT took Milton Thaiday 10 minutes to show what an asset he will be to the Ballina Rugby League Club this year. The former NSW Waratah ran on to a perfectly timed pass from fullback Shaun Laurie, eluded three players and scored a 40-metre try under the cross-bar with only his second touch of the football. It was one of two tries Thaiday scored as the Seagulls overcame Byron Bay 50-18 at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, in the opening round of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League yesterday. That try could have come eight minutes earlier as Laurie found Thaiday on the rampage in almost a replica move. But the pass from the fullback just floated forward. "That was good fun out there today," Thaiday said after the match. "To get back out there and run around with some mates was enjoyable. "The local crowd was good and to have my family here, especially my daughter, was great." The centre also kicked two conversions to finish with a match haul of 12 points. But he was largely overshadowed by fellow centre Ashley Moran. Moran, who became an uncle at the weekend when his brother Lenny and his wife had a baby, crossed for four tries. The hard-running centre simply ran at the gap and he was supplied plenty of ball by Laurie and second-rower Mitch Aubusson down the right-hand side of the field. Aubusson, who is still in high school, proved a handful whenever he touched the ball and he was solid in defence. Aubusson's second-row partner Matt Slattery scored two tries and proved a willing worker, while Laurie and prop Grant Erickson were also impressive. "I thought Mitch Aubusson had a great game," Ballina coach Chris Binge said. "Slats (Slattery), Milton and Shaun were all pretty good today. "We have plenty of improvement in us, but if that's an indication of what's to come then I'm going to be pretty happy." Ballina always looked in control, but Byron Bay did not cave in, as the scoreline suggests. In fact, the Red Devils forward pack dominated play at times with second-rowers Lincoln Raud-onikis and Matt Slattery (another one), props Lee Brown and Sonny Filimonehala and hooker Eli Colby impressive. Halfback Charles King was also eye-catching. At half-time Ballina led 24-12 and when Slattery scored five minutes after the break, the Bay were within six points. But with the loss of two of their starting side through injury in the first half, Byron simply ran out of puff and players.

BALLINA 50 (Ashley Moran 4, Milton Thaiday 2, Matt Slattery 2, Tyler Iverson, Matt Connor tries; Shaun Laurie 3, Milton Thaiday 2 goals) d BYRON BAY 18 (Robert Worth, Noel King, Matt Slattery tries; Chris King 3 goals). Half-time: 24-12. Penalties: Ballina 13-7. Referee: Peter O'Connor. Reserve grade: BALLINA 42 (Brad Lyons, Des Anderson 2, Josh Mather, Matt Connor, Deece McDonald, Ray Welsh, Chad Burrows tries; Matt Thompson 3, Des Anderson 2 goals) d BYRON BAY 4 (Bill King try). Under-18s: BALLINA 24 (Rob Miles 2, Tom Court 2, Clarence Kelly 2 tries) drew with BYRON BAY 24 (Jayden King, Tom O'Connor, Nathan Woods, Peter Cottle, Joe Kerrigan tries; Reece Purcell 2 goals).



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