Byron Bay's Matt Ross attempts to free the ball as he's tackled by several Mullumbimby players at Red Devil Park.
Byron Bay's Matt Ross attempts to free the ball as he's tackled by several Mullumbimby players at Red Devil Park. The Northern Star

Devils set fans alight

IN the old days they called it down town.

At Byron Bay's Red Devil Park they called it entertainment.

As the hosts posted an impressive 42-16 win over Mullumbimby in the Retravision Northern League, the 500-strong crowd was set alight by the sight of winger Tom Merrit in pursuit of an almost extinct move.

From a scrum inside their own 10m, five-eighth Tobin Cupples kicked long on the first tackle to create a foot race between Merit and Mullum's outside backs.

Merrit won.

The 18-year-old scorched past other chasers and reached the ball 30m out from the try line.

A Mullumbimby defender caught up as he bent down to grab it.

Lying on his back, but not held, he popped a miracle ball to centre Michael Chapman on the fly who ran 30m only to have the ball knocked from his hands over the line.

No try.

But it was pretty to watch.

Merrit brought gasps from the crowd as he repeatedly skipped through the Mullumbimby defence and finished with three tries.

The effort made more impressive coming after playing three matches in Sydney on Friday and Saturday on his way to being named a shadow player for the NSW Combined Catholic Colleges team.

"He is unbelievable," said happy coach Nathan Cross.

Earlier in the week, Cross said the match would be an accurate guide for how the team was situated.

His opposition coach Damon Scott said it showed Byron were real contenders.

"They're a classy outfit," he said.

"They were playing free-flowing football, we were playing catch up.

"We didn't have much possession and if you give them that much ball they're going to punish you.

"They're the benchmark now."

Byron scored four tries to one for a 22-4 half-time lead and when Cupples chipped for himself and scored three minutes into the second-half, the match was effectively over.

Cupples finished with two tries, had one disallowed, and was involved in two others and was near best on ground.

But the modest 23-year-old praised the efforts of his super-quick backline.

"I just have to get it to the outside backs," he said.

"I'm a giver."

Cross praised the efforts of Chapman who returned from a neck injury three-weeks ago to score two tries and be involved in several others.

Prop Matt Ross was impressive, playing 75 minutes in his first game back in three weeks and captain Ben Hill was brutal in defence.

Mullumbimby forwards Rick Oxley and Andrew Moroney worked hard all game.

The teams will meet again in five weeks.


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