Ballina busting into Anzac Cup contention

Rovers Aaron Heffernan heads away from Byrons Shaun Packham. The referee is Damian Parker. Parker filled in when the appointed referee failed to show up. It was his first premier match and he did a great job.

In a upset that left local pundits scratching their heads, the Lennox Head Sharks went down 3-2 to seaside rivals Ballina in the first semi-final of the Anzac Cup at Saunders Park on Friday night.

The Sharks have been the talk of the town after off season signings provided them with three of the regions best strikers Paul Kirkland, Peter ONeil and Ben Andrews.

So the Sharks have sharp teeth and many of them but it became obvious their midfield lacked the speed to handle the Seahorses and their backline lacked the experience to deal with the Seahorse strike force.

The Sharks opened the scoring, through Kirkland, but, as the game wore on, the Sharks struggled to handle the pace of former Shark Troy Percival, who scored the equaliser then sent the Seahorses ahead from the penalty spot. When Ballinas latest signing Shannon Maciejewski slammed in a third, he had reduced the Sharks to flake and serving them up for dinner.

Kirkland scored again but it was too late to stop Ballina from progressing to the final.

In the other semi Richmond Rovers took Byron Bay to the cleaners 4-0. All the action happened in the first half, when structural changes undermined Byrons efforts and opened the way for the Lismore men to dominate.

Byron have two of the regions best central defenders Aaron Richter-Steers and Shaun Packham but did they play them in central defence? No. They played in the midfield against the star-studded Rovers midfield and they rarely touched the ball. In contrast Rovers pushed their midfield enforcer Chris Matthews into striker alongside Troy Matthews, and the pair made the Rams defenders look like kids, which is fair because the average age of the defensive line was just 18.

Rovers won the air war in the first half, with Russell Dent heading in the opener and Chris Matthews heading in the third. Ben Cassagrande and Troy Matthews proved too fast for the young defenders, scoring the other two goals.

In the second half Byron dropped Richter-Steers back into central defence.

Rovers will play Ballina on Oakes Oval in the decider on April 25.

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