Soccer: Rovers earn a grand final rematch with Byron Bay
SOCCER: RICHMOND Rovers have set up a rematch of the 2014 grand final against Byron Bay with a ruthless 4-1 home win over Lennox Head in the Far North Coast premier league soccer preliminary final.
After their penalty shoot-out win over Byron Bay last year, Rovers can now secure consecutive major premiership titles, while the Rams have the chance of a rare premiership double, having already claim-ed the 2015 minor premiership.
Lennox were chasing just their second appearance in a grand final and began well, crafting a superb opening goal with some quality build-up finished off by a swerving shot from Jervis Foley.
While Lennox put together some good passages of play, Rovers goalkeeper Andrew Marshall kept them at bay with some vital saves and, with typical Rovers tenacity, they hit back just before the break.
A long throw from Bobby Bugden was flicked on to the far post, where Kurt Walker headed in from an acute angle.
With the game in the balance both sides went on the attack in the second half but the turning point came when defensive lapses from Lennox allowed Rovers to score twice in two minutes.
Andrew Casagrande capitalised on a goal-mouth scramble to finish from close range, then Jake Heffer-nan found enough room to drill a 25m shot past Sharks goalkeeper Layton Barton.
The double blow left the Sharks shell-shocked and Rovers completed their emphatic win when Russell Dent crossed for sub Matthew Olley to head in the fourth goal in the dying moments.
"It was a gritty win rather than a pretty win," Rovers coach Bobby Bugden said.
"We still haven't played to our best and seem to need the other side to score first before we kick into gear.
"But the boys dug deep and showed we can be dangerous from any position. Now it's all about focusing on next week."
Bugden praised Walker, Heffer-nan and Dan Flynn for their roles in the win, which puts Rovers into a remarkable eighth grand final appearance in nine years.
Lennox Head coach Troy Taylor was pragmatic about the end of their season.
"We weren't quite up to the standard needed to beat Rovers, which was disappointing as we feel we had more to offer, but overall it's been a successful season, winning the Anzac Cup and making a return to the semis," he said.
The grand final will be played at Oakes Oval, Lismore, on Saturday, starting at 6.30pm.
Byron Bay and Rovers will also contest the reserve division grand final for the second year in a row after Rovers downed Workers 3-0 in the preliminary final.