SWC Game Day – Hereford
Hereford Stampede would host the inter-division game day for the Coventry Panthers, Plymouth Buccaneers, Leicester Eagles, Coventry Cougars Mixed, Cardiff Hurricanes and Northants Titans White. The day would provide some close battles and some great atmosphere as Hereford would excel as hosts for the day despite only having one game on the day.
In the first game of the day on Pitch 1, the Coventry Panthers would match up against the Plymouth Buccaneers with both teams needing a win to start the day strong. It would be the Plymouth Buccaneers who would start the game off like a rocket, scoring on their first three drives with Barry Sellers hitting Sam Smith for a brace and James Stockley for another score to finish off the half with 21 points. The Coventry Panthers would pull one back before the half when James Nelms hit Pat Lane in the end zone to end the period at 21-7.
Plymouth would start the second half strong, finding Sam Smith for his hat-trick. A back and forth battle would ensue, seeing James Nelms hit James Whorlow and Thomas Reid with Plymouth pulling further ahead. Barry Sellers would then hit Leuan Tucker in the end zone to provide an emphatic reply. Coventry pulled another score back to Pat Lane and on the following drive, they would come up with a huge interception from Conor Baron who was making a transition to Safety for the game day.
The Panthers were now 8 points behind with 2 minutes remaining. They would drive down the field and find themselves with a 4th and short to give them an opportunity to tie the game. However, the pass would fall incomplete and leave Plymouth to run out the clock. A bobbled catch by Plymouth almost fell into the oncoming Sophie Gardner which would have given the Panthers another bite at the cherry but luckily for the Buccaneers, it fell to the ground and they would see the clock out to record their first victory on the day. The game-ball in this game goes to Sam Smith for his hat-trick and his insane yards after the catch.
Over on Pitch 2, the Northants Titans White would find themselves up against a strong Cardiff Hurricanes side who were looking to increase their lead at the top of the SWC South. The game started off competitively with both teams not giving an inch to their opponents. They traded scores with Matt Tibbles hitting both his brothers Ollie Tibbles & Sam Tibbles for scores, while Matt Thomas found Joe Cotterill and Kostas Karras in the endzone to tie the game up.
From this point on, the Cardiff Hurricanes would put the Titans White team to the sword and score 41 unanswered points, whereMatt Thomas would score on all but one drive throughout the whole contest. The ‘Canes defence would prove why they are one of the best in the league when they shut out the Titans White offence down for the whole of the second half with intimidating blitzing from Huw Davies which stifled Matt Tibbles, making it harder and harder to move the ball with any consistency. MVP in this goes to Kostas Karras who picked up a brace and proved to be a thorn in the side of the Titans’ defence, who couldn’t seem to find a match for him in the red-zone.
After a strong showing in their first game, the Coventry Panthers would be hoping to take advantage of a Leicester Eagles side that have been struggling to date and would be without starting QB Mik Smith for the day. The game would start badly for the Coventry Panthers, who would throw an interception to Tristran Elliot and would use this short field position to score a touchdown.
Back up QB Paul Hills found Ben Stapleford for the touchdown however the extra point was picked off by Panthers DB Pat Lane. The Panthers would then sort out their issues on offence and score on the next two drives with no reply, as James Nelms hit Thomas Reid for a brace, with James Whorlow getting the XPs to follow those scores. Panthers DB Pat Lane would provide a huge thorn in the side of Paul Hills when he would pick him off four times, including a pick 6 with Whorlow grabbing another XP to build on their lead. The score was 20-6 at the half.
The second half would be quieter with the Eagles adjusting their defence to start causing the Panthers more problems than the first half with Vinay Gogana getting two sacks and Ben Stapleford picking up two TFL’s to prevent any more damage to the scoreline. Both teams would score once more with Conor Baron and Chris Noon picking up points for their offences, the latter would pick up a garbage time interception but it would not be enough to see the Eagles back into this game. MVP in this game goes to Pat Lane who turned into a ball-hawking machine picking up 5 interceptionsand retuned one for a Pick 6 to stifle the Eagles.
Following on from a great set of games to start the day, the hosts Hereford Stampede would match up against a Coventry Cougars Mixed side who would want to improve their playoff chances over the Titans White with a win, on the other hand, the Stampede would want to put behind the disappointing game day previously by picking up a victory to put the pressure on the Cardiff Hurricanes at the top of the SWC South.
The Cougars’ usual suspects got the scoring under way when James Ashmore connected with Kieran Eaton, followed by Sam Finnie picking up the extra point. This same connection would carry on for the first three drives of the game until the Stampede could get off the board. Quarterback Steve Hall would utilise Jay Jay Spencer‘s height and wing span to combat the smaller quicker defence of the Coventry Cougars Mixed. Jay Jay would score twice to give the Stampede hope. Unfortunately for the Stampede, the Cougars would keep scoring and were able to restrict the Stampede to 2 more scores in the game while the Cougars kept their foot on the gas until the very end of the game. James Ashmore hit Danny Cabellero, who also also added the extra point. Game-ball in this game goes to Kieran Eaton who has consistently proved he is one of the best wide receivers in the SWC this season, and another reason why he is was the MVP recipient in the Super 5’s earlier in the season.
With the Titans White losing to the Hurricanes, that meant the Cougars had some breathing room. While winning against the Hurricanes wasn’t a must, they would still be looking to give the SWC South leaders a run for their money. The Cougars chose to go on D first and straight away Matt Thomas went to work for the Hurricanes by going deep to Josh Cranton, and the extra point was added by Sam Kimish. Joe Cotterill picked off James Ashmore on the ensuing drive, and just like that Matthew Thomas was back to his scoring ways, this time connecting with Chris Jones for the score with Richard Phelps adding the extra point.
The Cougars then couldn’t get the ball moving on the next possession and failed to get a first down, but Kieran Eaton bailed them out by picking off Thomas when the Hurricanes next took the field. This time the Cougars were successful, as James Ashmore found Sam Finnie in the back of the end zone, however the XP attempt failed. Both teams exchanged TDs as the first half was coming to a close, and on the next Hurricanes possession Matt Thomas was picked off by Danny Caballero on the Hurricanes side of the field. James Ashmore would take over and shortly after would connect with Danny Cabellero on the very next play for the score and extra point. Danny Cabellero, like a man possessed, wasn’t done yet and picked off Matt Thomas once again taking it in for the TD, giving the Cougars their first lead of the game 25-20.
With a minute to go in the first, the Hurricanes knew that was plenty of time as they drove down the field where Matt Thomas managed to find Joe Cotterill for his 2nd Touchdown of the game with Kostas Karras adding the extra point to end the first half.
The Cougars started with the ball in the second half and on the 2nd play of the half, James Ashmore dumped it off to Kieran Eaton who took it the length of the field to re-take the lead once again. The Hurricanes stalled out on their next drive but Drew Carey gave them the ball right back as he picked off James Ashmore to give the ball back to Matt Thomas, who would drive down into the Cougars half where Kieran Eaton would pick Matt Thomas off for the 2nd time in the game. This would be returned to the house to give the Cougars the 38-27 lead.
The Hurricanes kept their composure and scored on their next drive. Their D then stepped up to hold the Cougars Offense, giving their QB one last chance to drive for the winning drive. Matt Thomas somehow found Phelps in the corner of the end zone with 34 seconds to go. The Cougars, running on fumes, were unsuccessful to score as time ran out. Hurricanes stole a victory with the most unlikeliest of comebacks with so little time remaining on the clock.
Game-ball in this tight contest goes to Matt Thomas, who despite throwing 4 INT’s (incl. 2 Pick 6’s), would calmly lead a comeback and show his mental strength as well as his passing prowess to lead the Hurricanes to their 2nd win of the day.
In a game which was more one sided than the scoreline suggests, the Leicester Eagles struggles continued as they were suffocated by a Titans White defence who picked up the slack from the offence. Blitzer Adam Ribano imposed himself upon Paul Hills from the Eagles to grab 2 Sacks and 4 pass deflections. The Titans defence would pick up 4 interceptions as the game went on with Arden Shaw, Jon Mcrae-Smith, Darryl Taylor and David Radford all snagging a pick each.
Matt Tibbles would connect with David Radford for a hat-trick of Touchdowns to take the 20-0 lead and comfortably ease to victory. The Eagles would pick up a score in the dying moments of the game when a missed tackle from the Titans defence would see the Eagles grab a score. Game-ball goes to blitzer Adam Ribano for his relentless blitzing and game changing sacks.
The final game of the day over on Pitch 1 would see the resurgent Plymouth Buccaneers, who would be coming off a victory in the first game of the day. They would gain ground onthe Hereford Stampede after seeing them fall in their previous match up. The Northants Titans White would come into this match up on the back of a strong defensive performance and would be hoping for the offence to improve to match up with the powerful Buccs offence.
The game was very competitive with both teams defending and attacking well, but it would be the absence of Vadim Cretu at Safety from the Titans defence that would be the difference, as Barry Sellers utilised his deep passing game and kept him relatively relaxed as he hit 4 different receivers for touchdowns including a hat-trick for Iain Sawczyszak and a brace from Sam Smith. Matt Tibbles would rally his offence with 5 TD’s being split between David Radford, Ollie Tibbles and Arden Shaw, but it wasn’t enough as the defence couldn’t hold strong, and saw Plymouth pick up another vital win in their playoff push while the Titans White hit a speed bump and put their playoff chances on life support. Barry Sellers picks up the game-ball in this fixture. Barry seems to be picking up a number of these awards with his elusiveness in the pocket and his threatening deep ball.
In 2016, the Cardiff Hurricanes put up 59 points without reply against the Coventry Panthers and this game would have a similar feel, but the improved Panthers made the Hurricanes work for it at times in this match up. Matt Thomas put on an absolute clinic in the first half throwing for 6 TDs – 4 of which went to rookie Sam Kimish who ended up with 5 TD’s in this game with an absolute scintillating performance for the Hurricanes.
The stingy Hurricanes defence used plenty of rotation in this match but they didn’t show any effects with signal caller Matt Thomas coming up with an interception of his own in the second half, as well as picks for Andrew Jones and Joe Cotterill. The Coventry Panthers would benefit from an unfortunate slip and great play from James Nelms to get on the board, but this contest was wrapped up mid-way through the first half. Game-ball in this contest goes to rookie Sam Kimish who racked up an impressive 5 TD’s to cap off an impressive day for the Hurricanes who look to be heading towards the SWC South title.
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