Penalty shoot-out delivers 2015 soccer premiership to Rovers
RICHMOND Rovers are celebrating a 15th Far North Coast men's premier division soccer title after a thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over Byron Bay in the grand final.
The game had finished locked at 2-all even after extra time.
The night started well for Byron Bay with a 4-1 win over Rovers in the reserves and the club looked on track for a double when Michael Kelly scored after eight minutes in the premier division game.
A wonderful delivery from a corner by Sam Owen found an unmarked Kelly in the six-yard box and he clinically put it away.
On an Oakes Oval surface affected by a wet and muddy cricket pitch area, Byron Bay got off to the more threatening start, with big strikers Tyson Kaye and James Tomlinson causing the Rovers defence plenty of trouble.
Rovers took a while to settle with several positional changes as the Lismore side tried to find its rhythm.
With neither goalkeeper really tested in the first 30 minutes, Rovers' first chance came from a free kick towards goal from captain Russell Dent in the 38th minute.
The ball seemed to ricochet off several players before finding the sure foot of Bobby Bugden at the top of the 18-yard box.
Bugden's first-up strike from an acute angle was a classic volley that landed in the top right of the net, giving Rams 'keeper Chris Jones no chance.
Spectators had barely resumed their seats when Byron Bay pushed the ball up the middle, finding Tomlinson on halfway.
He shouldered his way past defender Ben Morgan and ran away to clinically slot Rams'second goal.
Returning after half-time with a 2-1 advantage, Byron Bay continued to look more likely.
Kelly missed a point blank shot after two minutes then a rafting shot from Tomlinson after seven minutes was followed by an unsuccessful call for a penalty when Tomlinson hit the deck.
Rovers started to gain the ascendancy about the 75-minute mark with seasoned campaigners Dent, Ian McGregor and replacement Matt Olley taking control.
More possession allowed Kurt Walker to make several menacing runs. He weaved a passage through the Rams' defence and scored from close range with seven minutes of normal time left.
Wave after wave of Rovers attack failed to again breach the defence, with Jones outstanding in goal, repelling numerous dangerous situations for the Rams.
The game went to extra time locked at 2-all, with both teams having opportunities in a tense final 20 minutes and exhaustion evident after playing on the very heavy pitch.
A penalty shoot-out was eventually required to determine the winner, with the normal theatre of that situation for supporters.
Just as they did last year, Rovers prevailed to snatch the trophy.
Rovers captain Russell Dent was named Terry Greedy Medallist as best on field.
In other grand finals, Burringbar defeated Lennox Head in extra time to win Division 2; Suffolk Park defeated Italo Stars on penalties to claim Division 1; and Byron Bay won premier reserve over Rovers.
These results mean that not a single pointscore winning team from the highest four men's divisions was able to go on to claimthe grand final trophy.