Byron Bay’s Thiago Priori and Goonellabah’s Paul Pomroy fly for the ball in a previous match.
Byron Bay’s Thiago Priori and Goonellabah’s Paul Pomroy fly for the ball in a previous match.

Can't split Bay, Hornets

FOR the third time in five years, arch rivals Goonellabah and Byron Bay will square off in Football FNC’s Tursa Anzac Cup final at Oakes Oval, Lismore, tomorrow at 5.30pm.

Richmond Rovers have won the Cup title for the last two years but after they were knocked out in the semis by Byron Bay, the Rams and the Hornets can now renew the rivalry that saw them battle out both the 2006 and 2007 Cup finals.

Byron downed Goonellabah 3-0 to claim their third Anzac Cup crown in 2007, after losing 4-3 to Goonellabah in 2006, which was only the second time the Hornets had won the title in its 61 year history.

Both sides go into the match at full strength and in good form, with Byron undefeated in eight games and Goonellabah having lost just once, 4-2 to Byron in the opening pool match of the Cup.

But since then the Hornets have gelled into a much stronger outfit under new coach Mark Ambler and last week overwhelmed reigning premiers Richmond Rovers 3-0, in an impressive display of speed and ball movement.

The Hornets will run on an unchanged line-up, with Ambler expecting a tight final.

“We know we have to be at our best to beat Byron, they’re a good side, well organised and with few weaknesses, but we’re fit and well prepared so it should be a good, close match,” Ambler said.

Brazillian striker Thiago Priori will be a key player for the Hornets against his former club and with three goals from his two premiership games, is the early leader in the golden boot and should be bubbling with confidence.

With fellow striker Dave Arnetts also in good form, the Hornets will test the Rams defence, where Englishman Ian Lennie has been a tower of strength in recent weeks.

A good organiser and fiercely strong in tackles, Lennie has been the main reason the Rams have kept a clean sheet for their last three games, something the club has not achieved in years.

With Irishman Greg McDonnell coming back from injury to join Lennie in central defence, the Rams have a solid look at the back, but attack will remain the focus for coach Peter Ware.

“We always want to go out and play attacking football and entertain and that won’t change because it’s a fina,” he said.

“It should be a fast game between two good sides on a good pitch and it will boil down to who wants it the most and takes their chances.”

Newly appointed Byron Bay captain Tom Ruhl has responded well to the responsibility and will combine with the non-stop Yantra Whitling in the Rams midfield.

Their battle with the Hornets’ pairing of Kale Hopper and their new captain Matt Dorigo will have a major bearing on the outcome in what looms as a delicately poised contest that may eventually hinge on one or two key moments.

In other finals at Oakes Oval tomorrow, Burringbar and Lennox Head will meet in the men’s Open A division from 3.15pm, following the Open B decider between Pottsville and Goonellabah at 1pm.

One final will be played on the adjoining Crozier Oval, with Bangalow and Casino fighting out the B division of the women’s Callan McMillan Shield at 1.30pm.

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