IN FORM: Byron Bay centre Owain Roberts plants the ball across the line for a try in Far North Coast rugby union.
IN FORM: Byron Bay centre Owain Roberts plants the ball across the line for a try in Far North Coast rugby union. File

Centres the key for Byron clash

CENTRE pairing Owain Roberts and Romey Vassell could hold the key for Byron Bay when it plays Grafton in Far North Coast rugby union at the Byron Bay Recreation Ground tomorrow.

They have combined well this season while Grafton has had to reshuffle its backline with the in-form No 8 Ed McGrath moving to outside centre to cover injuries.

Roberts moved out of the forwards this season while Vassell has been one of the best centres going around.

"I have Romey up there with (Wollongbar-Alstonville centre) Alex Gibbon as the top two centres in the competition,” Byron Bay coach Jeff Watt said.

"He's deceptively quick, strong in defence and he's scored a number of tries this season.

"Owain has slotted in nicely, he plays two roles in that we have another playmaker and a really strong ball runner in our backline.”

Front-rower Tim Hartmann returns to the pack while English No8 Courtney Raymond has emerged as one of the best forwards in the competition.

Five-eighth Peter Gillespie is another addition this season and has proved to be a handy pick-up.

"He came from Northern Ireland as a fullback but he's filled a gap for us at 10,” Watt said.

"Tim comes and goes a bit but he's another solid contributor in the front row, he seems to pop up when we need him.”

Byron Bay and Grafton are equal on competition points in fifth and all four teams above them should win their games this weekend.

They are two points outside the top four and a loss here would make it tough.

Byron Bay had games against Ballina and Lennox Head where they led towards the end and may have won if not for late tries.

"We're motivated, and playing at home is a big advantage,” Watt said.

"Our biggest issue is probably the mental side of things where we fade in and out of games.

"Physically we're as good as anyone and there is plenty of ability in the team.”

In other games:

Ballina captain Brad Brown will return for the Seahorses when they play Southern Cross University at Maurie Ryan Oval, East Lismore.

The Gold Rats have turned back the clock with former coach Josh Condon named at five-eighth and Steve Spinks on the wing.

Front-rower Otty Fifita comes into the Bangalow side to play Lennox Head at Williams Reserve, Lennox Head.

Competition leaders Wollongbar-Alstonville take on Lismore City at Lyle Park, Wollongbar.

Casuarina host the Casino Bulls on the Tweed Coast.

Byron Bay: 1 Jordan Elliott, 2 Dan Morgan, 3 Tim Hartmann, 4 Ed Randall, 5 Will Aisake, 6 Cooper Lau, 7 Ben Wood, 8 Courtney Raymond, 9 Tom Brooks, 10 Pete Gillespie, 11 Erik Rademacher, 12 Owain Roberts, 13 Romey Vassell, 14 Blake Whittakar, 15 Jascha Saeck (c). Coach: Jeff Watts.

Grafton: 1 Martin Boyd, 2 Zac Mason-Gale, 3 Dan Blackman, 4 Rhys Nelson, 5 Nick Collie, 6 Gary Wilson, 7 Tom Tanner, 8 Jack Anderson, 9 Adam Smidt, 10 Kyle Hancock (c), 11 Riley Durrington, 12 Jayden Reti, 13 Ed McGrath, 14 Ryan Spies, 15 Keaton Ingram. Coach: Craig Howe.

Referee: Graham Cook.

Southern Cross University: 1 Mitchell Bird, 2 Isaac Penfold, 3 Kirk Taylor-Brown, 4 Brad Sneath, 5 Dean Buchanan, 6 Riley Spencer, 7 Peter Murphy, 8 Ben Prozinski, 9 Will Hawkins, 10 Josh Condon, 11 Rhys Harrison, 12 Pat Dawson, 13 Matt McMullen, 14 Steve Spinks, 15 Michael McMullen. Coach: Harry Witt.

Ballina: 1 Isaac Pratten, 2 Hayden Warneke, 3 Marcus Lees, 4 Jack Pippo, 5 Jakob O'Connor, 6 Brad Brown (c), 7 Luke Kliese, 8 Stan Lolohea, 9 Nick Watson, 10 Beau Clarke, 11 Rhyen Kennedy, 12 Nick Brydon, 13 Tupou Lolohea, 14 Leigh Foster, 15 Luke Simpson. Coach: Chris Hickey.

Referee: Matt Clayton.

Lennox Head: 1 Angus Langfield, 2 Brad McGoulrick, 3 Jacob Carter, 4 Callum Jones, 5 J Smith, 6 Kurt Orlanno, 7 Jackson Gardnir, 8 Hayden Blair (c), 9 Abe Goldsmith, 10 Billy Goldsmith, 11 Matthew Bermingham, 12 Martin McNamara, 13 Callum S Jones, 14 Rhys Tatum, 15 Sam Fitzgerald. Coach: Rob Fish.

Bangalow: 1 Sean Petrou, 2 Nick Jones (c), 3 Otty Fifita, 4 Rob Wrightman, 5 Jock Craigie, 6 Josh Johns, 7 John Turagabeci, 8 Dave Johnson, 9 Rowan Ozols, 10 Ben Farrow, 11 Jack Bensley, 12 Dan Hill, 13 Kye Spence, 14 Adam Brien, 15 Alex Wadsworth. Coach: Tim Cohen.

Referee: Will Palmer.

Wollongbar-Alstonville: 1 Jaiden Reginato, 2 Bill Johnston, 3 Benji Tiatia, 4 Matt Scott, 5 Josh Galbraith, 6 Austin Markwort, 7 Justyn Keir, 8 Nick Pennisi, 9 Louis Hollman, 10 Ben Damen (c), 11 Josh Damen, 12 Daniel Damen, 13 Alex Gibbon, 14 James Vidler, 15 Sam Kerry. Coach: Paul Jeffery.

Lismore: 1 Gavin Tulk, 2 Cameron Bryant, 3 Ben Carroll, 4 Dylan Tulk, 5 Jathan Von Bratt, 6 Tyler Coveney, 7 Brenden Williams (c), 8 James Grubb, 9 Jack Everingham, 10 William Fairweather, 11 Sam Nilon, 12 Jake Lennon, 13 Marcus Hannaway, 14 TBA, 15 Andrew Sky. Coach: Ray Taylor.

Referee: James McElligott.

Casuarina Beach: 1 Bruce Somerville, 2 Daniel Heritage, 3 Robert Beacroft, 4 Trent Ryan, 5 Elisio Tagidrau, 6 Matt Worland, 7 Henry Bradford, 8 Mitch Planten, 9 Webb Lillis, 10 Rian Olivier, 11 Michael Coates, 12 Hiroshi Takeyama, 13 Richard White, 14 Luke Gyory, 15 Graham Dodge. Coach: Mick Hall.

Casino: 1 Blake Birmingham, 2 Ben Collison, 3 Scott Kenny, 4 Callum McLennan, 5 Marcus Cusack, 6 Josef Lalabalavu, 7 Elliott Birmingham, 8 Ratu Vio Batibasaga, 9 Stephen Murchie (c), 10 Nick Armstrong, 11 Nick Benn, 12 Sililo Stavenow, 13 Harrison Cusack, 14 Jake Roberts, 15 Wilson Lovokuro. Coach: Doug Murray.

Referee: Peter Campbell.