SWC South Game-day Review – Hereford
In the first game of the day, Hereford took on Plymouth with both teams still in the hunt for the second SWC South playoff spot. Plymouth would be up against it from the start following a number of late withdrawals leaving them with only six players for the day. A torrential downpour (including hailstones) arrived right at the first snap and resulted in a slow paced game with plenty of dropped passes from both teams. Some early penalties for crossing the LOS didn’t help Plymouth early on as Hereford took control using the run game in the difficult conditions. Touchdowns from Jay Jay Spencer (2), a pick 6 from Daniel Mears and an extra point from James Sirrel gave Hereford a 19-0 halftime lead.
The theme continued in the second half with Hereford extending their lead before Plymouth finally got on the board with two TDs after Barry Sellers found Sam Smith and Iain Sawczyszak. Hereford sealed the win with another late TD to make the final score 39-12 and eliminate Plymouth from playoff contention. Jay Jay Spencer earns our game-ball in this contest!
With Plymouth now out of contention for the playoff spot, Merthyr Tydfil would begin their own attempt, needing to win all three games on the day which would have seen them sneak in on the division record tiebreaker. They began with the ball and quickly marched down field for a 7-0 lead with Alex Thomas finding Richard Harris in the endzone for the TD and XP. Both teams then traded turnovers before another long Merthyr drive was finished off again by Richard Harris who would also add a pick 6 just before the half to give Merthyr a 20-0 half time lead.
The trend continued early in the second half with Richard Harris continuing Merthyr’s scoring with another TD and XP. Despite the score, Plymouth kept going and managed two quick scores of their own with Barry Sellers finding Sam Smith and Iain Sawczyszak for TDs after two Merthyr turnovers. With the score now 27-13 with two minutes remaining Merthyr finished the game off with Dale Davies now at QB finding Richard Harris for his fourth TD and third XP of the game to add to his four interceptions and give Merthyr a 34-13 win. Richard Harris excellent performance earns him our game-ball!
A much anticipated rematch after Hereford’s two point win earlier in the season saw both teams competing hard in a fiery and physical game. A tight start resulted in both teams trading the lead early with Cardiff going ahead through a Matt Thomas pass to Joe Cotterill before Hereford pulled out to a 12-7 lead after QB Steve Hall found Jay Jay Spencer for two scores. Cardiff would respond and take the lead back with two more Matt Thomas touchdowns to Joe Cotterill to give them 18-12 half time lead.
In the second half Cardiff began to pull away moving the ball efficiently on offence while stifling Hereford thanks to great pressure from blitzer Chad Stevens. Matt Thomas was able to add another three TDs this time to David Ponting and a brace from Chris Jones as Cardiff ran out comfortable winners 37-12. Matt Thomas picks up our game-ball for his fine showing under centre.
With playoff hopes on the line, the loser of this game knew the season was over, and the game did not lack drama. A good opening drive from Merthyr gave them the lead with Alex Thomas finding Phil James for a 6-0 lead before Hereford responded with a Steve Hall to JJ Spencer touchdown and a 7-6 lead. From this point the game swung heavily in Merthyr’s favour with an interception by Richard Harris, giving them good field position for Alex Thomas to find Richard Harris for the TD and Phil James for the XP to regain the lead.
Another stalled Hereford drive allowed Merthyr to extend the lead further with a Craig Warren TD before a QB option play resulted in Richard Harris finding QB Alex Thomas wide open in the endzone for a 26-7 lead with under a minute to go in the half. Hereford, with two timeouts, quickly marched into Merthyr’s half but found themselves facing a long fourth down with time set to expire. On the snap the Merthyr blitzer made contact with the Hereford QB who still managed to get a pass off to Luke Griffith who raced down the sideline past the Merthyr defenders, who had stopped after hearing a whistle which turned out to be from soccer game on the next field over. After that controversy, the score at half time was 26-13 Merthyr.
With Hereford starting the second half with the ball they looked to get themselves back in the game but another Richard Harris interception gave Merthyr good field position for Alex Thomas to find Richard Harris to restore the three score lead, 33-13. Despite the setback and knowing there was plenty of time remaining, Hereford remained calm and began to slowly move the ball up field on consecutive drives. Steve Hall found Luke Griffith for his second score of the game and James Sirrel for another TD and suddenly they were back in it.
A Merthyr turnover then gave Hereford and Steve Hall a short field for Jay Jay Spencer to score and take the lead 34-33. With two minutes to go and the season on line, the Merthyr offence found its rhythm again to drive downfield and face a crucial fourth down on the goaline where Alex Thomas calmly found his favourite target Richard Harris for a score to put Merthyr back on top 39-34 with under a minute to go. Again Hereford didn’t panic and took what the Merthyr defence gave them and finding the sideline when needed. With 10 seconds on the clock Hereford had a third down inside the five yard line which fell incomplete bringing up a season defining fourth down play. Steve Hall found Jay Jay Spencer, who had broken free of man coverage, for a game winning and playoff clinching score. For his poise under pressure in this game, Steve Hall earns our game-ball!
With the playoff spot gone, the Thunderducks’ focus was now on trying to move off the bottom of the division but they faced a tough challenge against the division winning Cardiff team. A close game throughout saw both teams suffer stalled drives before Merthyr took a 7-0 lead with Alex Thomas finding Ross Thomas in the back of the endzone for the TD and Richard Harris for the XP. Cardiff responded with a nice drive of their own with Matt Thomas connecting with David Ponting and then took the lead 13-7 with a Matt Thomas to Sam Kimish TD. With the half-time whistle approaching, Alex Thomas drove Merthyr downfield for a Richard Harris TD to tie the score at13 all.
The two Welsh rivals continued trading scores in the second half with Merthyr going back in front thanks to a Richard Harris TD with Craig Warren adding the XP. Cardiff then looked to take control of the game late on using their experience on offence and defence to tie the game up with a Chris Jones score before forcing a turnover and taking the lead, as Matt Thomas found Josh Cranton to take the lead 27-20. Merthyr though would have one last drive in them. Now playing hurry-up offence, Merthyr thought they had picked up a first down to stop the clock with Matthew Griffiths, subbing in at centre for Lee Thomas, fighting to escape a tackle only for a sack to be ruled after Chad Stevens had tackled Alex Thomas before he got the ball out. With the clock running Merthyr called a timeout and managed to convert the fourth down to stop the clock. Two plays later, Alex Thomas found Richard Harris for the ninth time on the day to make it 27-26. With a tie no good to them, Merthyr opted to go for two and the win and Alex Thomas capped off a great day at QB by calmly escaping the diving effort of Cardiff’s Chad Stevens and throwing a perfectly weighted ball to the back of the endzone for Ross Thomas to make the score 28-27. Cardiff had time for two plays, but good pressure from Merthyr Blitzer Andy Giboney resulted in a sack and a tackle for loss to clinch the victory. Alex Thomas earns our game-ball for his heroics in an unlikely victory.
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