In an epic of Homeric proportions the two major rivals for the Football Far North Coast crown, Byron Bay and Rovers, laid on a riveting 14-goal romp which virtually defied description.
When one team looked dead and buried, they rose up like many-headed hydras to reef back the advantage. In the first 15 minutes Byron looked set to take the men from Lismore to the cleaners, missing two clear chances and converting two others to take an easy 2-nil lead. Then the momentum changed, as it would time and again during this absolutely extraordinary game, with Rovers hitting back with goals to Ian McGregor and another to Adam Gray, who sliced through the best defence in the competition like a scalding rapier through soft butter.
With half time beckoning Rovers took the lead when Aaron Heffernan capitalised on a loose ball in the box. But the drama of the half still wasnt over when, only seconds before the whistle, Tom Ruhl scored from close range to take them to the break 3-all.
The match had already reached amazing heights and the second half, though just as gripping, only produced two goals. Heffernans would-be match winner was cancelled out by Shaun Packhams 30-metre effort, which forced the match into extra time. All of a sudden the game, that had been played at breakneck speed went up a gear. Heartbreak speed.
In the first term of extra time Adam Gray nailed the ball with pin point precision into the top corner of Byrons goal, and Rovers looked to finally have it sewn up and took their foot off the accelerator. It was enough for Byron, who kept up the intensity, and Joel Rudgley levelled it up.
But still the battle wasnt over. Mere moments before the final whistle referee Clive Owen awarded a penalty to Rovers, although it looked a bit soft. Surely this was it Rovers must win from here.
Amidst the baying of the Byron crowd, Rams keeper Kai Connell produced a double save to force the game to a penalty shoot out. In a brilliant display of goal keeping, the lanky Byron custodian produced two more brilliant saves during the shoot out to get the Rams through to the grand final.
It had been one of the most remarkable games in living memory, a 14-goal feast of football, like something from the 1940s when teams used to play five up front. Im exhausted just writing about it.
Meanwhile, in the minor semi final, Maclean produced a Houdini-like escape to snatch a 2-1 win over Lennox Head and earn a spot in the preliminary final against Richmond Rovers.
Down 1-nil after an excellent goal by Troy Percival and with only minutes left on the clock, makeshift defender Grant Nielson pushed forward, producing the equalising goal from a goal-mouth scramble and setting up the winner for Izaac McClymont.
The sudden climax left the Bobcats beside themselves as they ended both their own four-match losing streak and the Sharks four-match winning streak.
The preliminary final will be played at Bill Harris Field this Sunday at 3pm.
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