The Birmingham Lions played host to the Titans Blue, Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Cougars Ladies for a great day of Flag despite the up and down British weather. With GB Head Coach Alan Young watching, everyone wanted to make sure they left it all out there and gave him something to think about during his next GB selection.
First game of the day over on Pitch 2 saw the Titans Blue take on the Buccaneers. The Titans would take to the field without leading SWC Quarterback Adam Grindrod, leaving current leading SWC DB Stefan Rowden to take the lead under centre for the day. In a quiet first half, only a defensive score from Stefan Rowden separated the two squads, until the last play of the half. A fade to Nathan Coles, who’s strong hands and great footwork in the back of the end zone, gave the Titans a 12-0 lead at the interval. The second half was much of the same with the stingy Titans defence shutting out Plymouth forthe majority of the half. Stefan Rowden started to find his rhythm in the offence, as he found Arron Timson for a TD & XP. This was followed by a score to Jamie Willars for another TD & XP combination to take a 26-0 lead. A small lapse in concentration saw Plymouth pull one score back with Barry Sellers and Jack Gilbert linking up in the back of the end zone, but this came too late for the Buccaneers as the Titans ran the clock out to end with a 26-6 victory.
Gameball in this one goes to Arron Timson, who not only came away with a TD & XP, but had numerous outrageous grabs to pick up first downs and set up the Titans offence in great field position. Sam Smith of the Plymouth Buccaneers also had a fine game, as he picked up 4 interceptions, keeping the scoreline respectable for his side.
Northants Titans Blue found themselves in new territory against rookie side Exeter Falcons. With their defence putting in a stingy performance against the Buccaneers, there would be no dip in form, as they snagged 8 INT’s. Four of these turnovers were created by Connor Melay, who also returned a pick to the house. Harry Brailey grabbed himself 4 sacks and a safety also. Stefan Rowden led the Titans offence effectively, finding Centre Jordan Melay for two TD’s. Nathan Coles would add two further TDs and Jamie Willars would pick up a TD & XP. Gameball goes to the Titans defence as a whole in this one.
Both teams went into this game knowing a lot about each other in a battle for Coventry pride. The Coventry Panthers started the game off well by moving the ball on the Cougars Ladies but were unable to gain the first downs due to the plucky Cougars Ladies Defence, who stopped the Panthers offence on a number of 4th and short situations. It would be the Panthers offence who would eventually prove to be the deciding factor in this one, with standout performances by veterans James Whorlow and speedster Shailen Tailor, the latter we feel deserves the game ball for a number of great catch and runs to set up the Panthers enough second half first downs to close out the game in a tight contest. The Cougars Ladies showed a spirited performance in which Millie Barratt and star wide receiver Grace Conway showed they are a QB-WR combination that teams need to fear as the season progresses. Special mention for Panthers centre Aaron Flower as well, who grabbed a brace from QB James Nelms.
Birmingham Lions came into this one with a perfect record and were looking to extend that streak. Last year, the Lions unfortunately missed out on the playoffs by virtue of their forfeited game days. This year they look more focused and with a host of new faces to couple with the existing outstanding talent on both sides of the ball. The game started with a deep bomb from Tristan Varney to the returning Drew Newiss who would proceed to drop the first pass of the game, much to the delight of the Lions bench. This aerial attack would continue for most of the game with Tristan picking up first down after first down which would lead to score after score with Drew Newiss, Liam White, Callum Davidson and Daniel Lester all picking up 2 TDs each in this fixture. The defence also stood strong despite being put in some awkward positions by the Cougars Ladies, who would find themselves in the red zone on multiple occasions, falling just short of putting a score on the board in this one. Game ball in this one goes to Tristan Varney who is looking just like the Championship winning QB he was in 2015 and will be hoping to obtain that #1 seed from the SWC with this continued form.
Next game saw the Buccaneers face the explosive Birmingham Lions offence who had come off from dropping a 50 burger and achieving a shutout against Cougars Ladies. However, Plymouth Buccaneers would want to try and play better than they had in their defeat to the Titans Blue. The first half saw a shootout where it was end to end stuff from Tristan Varney and Barry Sellers. The Buccaneers were leading 19-18 with seconds ticking down on the clock before half time when Tristan Varney found his receiver to take a 24-19 lead into the intermission. In the second half, the Lions defence came out and switched up to man coverage, stopping the Buccaneers on their first possession which would ultimately turn the tide of the game in their favour.The Lions then scored 27 unanswered points. With a strong second half performance by the defence, and Tristan Varney firing on all cylinders, the Lions were able to win this contest comfortably. Plymouth managed to pull one back but the Lions defence was too much for them in the second half.
Game ball goes to Drew Newiss who made a number of clutch catches over the middle of the field to pick up numerous first downs to go along with his multiple TD’s.
Both teams came into this one after different fortunes in their previous game. The Exeter Falcons struggled to get their offence moving on the way to a 41-0 loss to the Titans Blue, whereas the Panthers came in of the back of a win with confidence high. This game would be a nail biter in which Panthers Blitzer Sean Keaveney was able to put the pressure on Exeter QB Lewis David Phillips early. This forced a few errant passes, which Panthers Safety Tyler Sheil was able to pick off. Phillips would remain composed and eventually found some success with his deep passing. He cashed in, and lead his team to a valuable victory. Game ball in this one goes to Lewis Phillips, who despite the early interceptions, bounced back to secure the victory for this team in a must win game for them.
The headliner on the Birmingham card saw both teams coming into the game 2-0 on the day. Northants started the game off with a score on a wildcat run from QB Stefan Rowden (video below!) deep into his own half which was followed by an XP Interception return by Joseph Haniff to make the scoreline 6-2. The Lions would then take control by shutting down the Titan’s offence and scoring again after Tristan Varney connected with Liam White to take the score to 8-6. A safety on the next Titans drive by Atsuki Kuramochi gave the ball back to the Lions offence who could try and march down the field again. They were unsuccessful on their first two plays, however Varney uncorked a beautiful 45 yard pass to Callum Davidson who showed incredible concentration during almost perfect coverage from Connor Melay to haul it in for the score. With Lions starting on offence in the second half with a 16-6 lead, they would have a chance to extend that advantage, however after a rousing team-talk from Titan Nathan Coles, the Northants defence made a stop. Stefan Rowden would then find Nathan Coles in the end zone on the ensuing drive to cut the lead to 16-12. The Titans defence would then grab an interception which was returned inside the Lions half from the end zone by Connor Melay (his 7th INT of the day). Controversy occurred however, as the referee blew his whistle for inadvertently once the ball was picked off, and the Titans offence had to start on the 5 yard line. However, this would not deter the Titans as they would then drive down the field where Rowden hit Arron Timson for the go ahead score. The Lions would reply, when Varney hit Drew Newiss to take the lead, 22-18. On the first play of the next drive, Rowden looked for Jordan Melay on an out route but the ball was tipped into Jeevan Sandhu‘s hands to give Lions great field position which they capitalised on. Facing a 28-18 deficit with time running out, Stefan Rowden started a march down the field with no timeouts remaining, utilising his Centre Jordan Melay to pick up valuable yards. Needing a first down, Rowden then used his legs to move the chains. A slip on his cut-step stopped him from making another handful yards. On the next play, Jordan Melay lost his defender and reached up high to snag a touchdown, with a Lion defender hanging off of him. This narrowed the score to 28-24 with less than 2 minutes to go in the game. An incredible clutch catch from Drew Newiss followed on 4th down with two Titans defenders in tight coverage on him to bring up 1st down and 50 seconds to go. Not content with taking knees, Tristan fired a deep shot into the endzone to extend the lead, 34-24. With little time remaining and down by two scores, Stefan Rowden connected with Nathan Coles on a deep reception. Despite having two defenders in the vicinity, he managed to haul the pass in with two feet in bounds to bring the game to 34-30. The Lions then took a knee to see the game out and to carry on their unbeaten streak on in the SWC.
Game ball in this one goes to both QB’s Tristan Varney and Stefan Rowden who went blow for blow in this pulsating contest. Varney came out with 5 TD passes against a top defence, while Rowden had an impressive outing, with 4 TD Passes and a Rushing TD.
The final game of the day saw both 0-2 teams face each other looking to go home on a positive note. Both teams had positive moments in their previous games and would want to get the ball moving on offence. In a back and forth first half which saw both teams put scores on the board, it would be the Barry Sellers offence that would break the deadlock. The Buccaneers defence stood firm to ensure the victory was assured. Barry hit 6 different receivers for TDs and XPs in this game, showing that it is not just Jack Gilbert who teams should watch out for. Game ball goes to the aforementioned Barry Sellers, who utilised his offence very well in the second half to pick up the win. Grace Conway picked up another TD in this fixture, and Cougars Ladies will be hoping for more scores from her while they hunt that elusive W in their next game day.
Visit our SWC Hub for all the standings after a huge game day!