With the opening exchanges of the SEC South taking place last weekend, we spoke to SEC Capitals Head Coach and Chichester Shark Neil Henderson about the day. Videos provided by Ed Swift.
On a warm and sunny Easter Sunday three teams battled out a series of closely fought games in Chichester. Joining the Chichester Sharks were fellow SEC South members the Reading Knights and Solent Thrashers. The Reading Lions were due to attend too to complete the full round robin of divisional games but citing lack of available players they did not attend. It remains to be determined if these unplayed games from Sunday will be re-scheduled for the future or if the Lions will give up the forfeits for some or all of the missed games.
Chichester Sharks 34, Reading Knights 32
First up was hosting team the Chichester Sharks against relatively new flag team the Reading Knights which is made up of mostly coaches and some players from the Reading University kitted team of the same name. Knights won the toss and chose to defend first. The Sharks spread the ball around and moved up the field on the first drive but two short yardage end zone drops and some good defending on fourth down meant the Sharks came up short.
Knights QB Andy Hollands moved down field quickly hitting SEC Capitals player Vincent Berry on a long second down play and then hitting Berry again for the TD. The XP play was unsuccessful but the Knights soon got the ball back as a badly underthrown ball from experienced Sharks QB Neil Henderson was intercepted by Andreas Kyriakidis. Three plays later and the Knights were 13-0 up as Hollands hit Kyriakidis for the TD and XP. The Sharks offence then stalled again with only one short completion to hand the ball back to the Knights.
Four plays later the Knights made it 20-0 after Andy Hollands hit his brother Chris (playing centre) on a short out route which was turned up field on the side line for the score.
The Sharks offence finally started to click as Alex Brown (another SEC Capital player), recently transferred from the Solent Thrashers and playing his first game for the Sharks, took the ball the length of the field for the Sharks’ first score. The Knights regained their three score lead just two plays later as Hollands hit Dan Woods with the long pass into the end zone. With time expiring in the first half, QB Neil Henderson hit Luke Nash to move the ball into the Knights half and then hit Corey Bedford (also SEC Capitals) on the corner route but he was judged just out of bounds in the end zone. Bedford was not to be denied the score though and a pin point pass from Henderson in traffic found Bedford for the TD with centre Gary Robinson adding the XP. Half time score Sharks 14-26 Knights.
The Knights started with the ball in the second half and carried on where they left off driving down field with relative ease with Hollands finding Oliver Patterson wide open for the score. The failed XP (the third such miss in the game) left the score at 32-14 in the Knights favour but those missed XP would end up being crucial.
On the next drive the Sharks moved quickly into the Knights half but then stalled again before Henderson hit former GB Lions team mate Pete Steel on the corner route to make the score 32-20. The Knights offence then failed to score for the first time with some good tackling and defending from Luke Nash and Andy Jenkins and helped by a penalty which would otherwise have resulted in a first down.
Knowing that time was not on their side Henderson went to the hurry up offence with two quick passes to Bedford to get the first down before a heads up play by Pete Steel on a tipped ball, catching the ball as he fell to the ground set up a short field for the possible score. The very next play saw Henderson hit Robinson for the TD followed by Brown for the XP to narrow the margin to 5 points.
The game turned on the Knights next play as Sharks rookie Lloyd Cheesman (a GB Ultimate Frisbee player) read the pass perfectly and made the interception before dodging the attempted tackle from Hollands for go ahead TD.
Those missed Knights XPs began to tell as the Sharks got their 4th of 5 for the day to take make the score 34-32.
Time was still on the Knights’ side though as they started to drive down field trying to get the lead back. It took four downs to get over the half way line but the Knights still looked in control. Two short completions before a drop left 4thand goal from about the 12 yard line with only seconds on the clock. Either way this would be the last play. With good pressure from GB women’s squad player Kate Bruinvels, Hollands aimed for Patterson at the front of the end zone to snatch back victory for the Knights but Pete Steel read the pass brilliantly and plucked the ball from Patterson’s grasp for the pick which was returned to half way as time expired.
Chichester Sharks 38, Solent Thrashers 27
The Solent Thrashers won toss and chose to defend first off. The Sharks picked up where they ended the previous game moving downfield with relative ease, the ball being spread amongst the receivers before QB Henderson hit Luke Nash for the opening score but with the subsequent XP unsuccessful. The Thrashers led by SEC Capital QB Adam Russell also had Capital Tom Burrows at centre and they moved the ball quickly and confidently with Russell finding Jon Dunn on the crossing route for the TD, and the tallest player on the field Tom Barnes for the XP to take the lead.
After a long first down completion a short run by centre Gary Robinson resulted in a temporary injury which saw Kate Bruinvels come in a centre. She took full advantage of the offensive opportunity taking the short pass from Henderson past two Solent defenders for the score. Bedford then made a fantastic diving catch over the end zone pylon for the XP.
Just four plays later Russell found Barnes for the tying TD in traffic and then Liam Goddard for the XP and the 1 point lead. After a long catch and run by Nash, Henderson found Alex Brown at the back corner of the end zone for another score but the XP attempt went incomplete to make it 19-14 to the Sharks.
On the next drive the Thrashers moved the ball easily again with Burrows getting the TD pass from Russell. The XP was dropped but Burrows leaving the Thrashers a single point ahead. With time running out in the first half Henderson moved the ball before finding Robinson uncovered for the TD with Brown adding the XP (Sharks 26-20 Knights). In the final seconds of the half the Thrashers had 1st down and goal from just inside the Sharks’ half but a sack from Corey Bedford halted the drive as time expired with the Sharks 6 points up.
Russell went long early in the second half to find Barnes for the TD and Dunn for the XP to take a 27-26 lead. This was to be the Thrashers’ final score though as the Sharks’ experience and game management proved decisive once again. Both teams traded unsuccessful drives before the Thrashers regained some momentum again but again came up short with knock downs from Pete Steel and Lloyd Cheesman.
The Sharks offence started to click again as Henderson found Bedford on the corner route for the score but the XP was unsuccessful making the score 32-27 to the Sharks. A Luke Nash interception of Russell deep in Thrashers territory on the next drive set up a first down from the five yard line. Jonathan Lupton took the short pass from Henderson to extend the Sharks lead. The Thrashers couldn’t move the ball on the subsequent drive before time expired. Final score Sharks 38-27 Thrashers.
Solent Thrashers 33, Reading Knights 26
The final game of the day saw both losing teams play each other with Jay Bellamy replacing Andy Hollands at QB for the Knights. Both teams moved the ball with relative ease throughout the game although there was one interception for each side. Bellamy hit receivers Chris Hollands, Dan Woods and Oliver Patterson (2) for TDs while Russell found Burrows for a single TD and Barnes and Dunn for a pair of braces. Final score Thrashers 33-26 Knights.