The Eagles’ 2016 season came to a disappointing end with a 41-28 defeat away to the Birmingham Bulls on Sunday, thanks in no small part to a disastrous third quarter.
The Bulls received the opening kick off and after a strong drive that included successfully converting a 4th and 6 attempt on the Eagles 15-yard line, opened the scoring following a complete pass from one-yard out.
On the Eagles’ first possession a big pass completion and gain from Ross Hubbard took the offense to the Bulls 37 but the drive stalled, and the hosts were backed up inside their five-yard line following the punt.
Birmingham managed to drive to around halfway before being forced to punt, and it was the Eagles’ turn to start inside their own five.
Strong running from Kase Chibwe and a catch from Alex Smith took the Eagles to up to their 41 at the end of the first quarter, and another catch from Hubbard to start the second period moved the ball into Bulls territory.
Another completed pass to Smith took the Eagles to the 36 but a fumble on the next play was recovered by the Bulls and returned to the Eagles 28, where only a last-ditch tackle from QB Zach Wodaege prevented the lead being extended.
The Bulls got as far as the 14 before having to settle for a field goal attempt, but after the snap was fumbled the Eagles regained possession on halfway thanks to Mal Stevenson.
More strong running eventually resulted in first and goal on the four, and Chibwe crossed the line to reduce the deficit to 7-6 after the unsuccessful PAT attempt.
Andy Larwill’s fumble recovery got the Eagles the ball back quickly just inside the Bulls half, and when Wodaege connected with Smith from 36 yards out – running backwards – the Eagles had the lead.
The Bulls drove to halfway at the two-minute warning and down to the 18-yard line soon after, but Tony Ledger’s interception killed the momentum and the Eagles were unable to capitalise before the half, despite several quick first downs.
Half-Time: Bulls 7 Eagles 12
The Eagles received the kick off to start the second half but the drive stalled in the Bulls half and they regained possession on their ten-yard line after Ross Hubbard’s punt.
A 23-yard run and 14-yard pass took the Bulls to midfield, and a 53-yard pass over the top unlocked the Eagles secondary to regain the lead, the PAT attempt making the score 14-12.
The Bulls forced a fumble on the kick return and returned it for a touchdown, converted a two-point attempt to extend their lead to 22-12, and capitalised on another fumble on fourth and short on the Eagles’ next possession to take the score to 28-12 after an unsuccessful two-point attempt.
When the Eagles fumbled another kick off return to hand the ball back to the Bulls they wasted no time in punching the ball in again to make it 27 unanswered points in a horrific third period from an Eagles perspective.
The fourth quarter started with a strong offensive drive from the Eagles that was ended by a five-yard touchdown run by Chibwe and two-point conversion to cut the score to 34-20, but any chances of an unlikely comeback were put to bed on the Bulls’ next possession (41-20).
The final touchdown of the game came from departing QB Wodaege who ran the ball in for the Eagles from inside the five, and Gareth “Tish” Pullen trundled across the line for the two-point conversion to make the final score 41-28 to the Bulls.
After the game Interim Head Coach Darren Hill informed the team that he would not be putting himself forward for the position on a regular basis. Further details will be announced in due course.
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