The Eagles opened their 2017 BAFA National League campaign with a determined and gutsy 14-12 victory over the South Wales Warriors on Sunday afternoon.
Whilst the rest of the UK enjoyed BBQ weather, South Wales was overcast and windy which did not help either offence settle in their first outing this year. An uneventful first quarter was scoreless.
The Eagles offence established a foothold with their running game in the second quarter, but were frustrated by a spirited goal-line stand by the hosts when looking likely to score.
The breakthrough finally came after a Byron Chowles interception gave the Eagles great field position, and running back Ben Cockin was able to convert from five yards. Mike Turner added the extra-point to give the visitors the half-time lead.
True to form the Warriors opened the second half in determined fashion and soon replied with a rushing touchdown of their own. The extra point conversion attempt was blocked – crucially as it would turn out – so the Eagles retained a slender advantage.
The key offensive moment for Ouse Valley took place on the next drive when QB Justin LaRoda found wide-out Bob Benney in the corner of the end zone from 36-yards for a spectacular diving catch. Turner again converted the extra point to put the visitors up 14-6.
The Eagles then appeared to be content to keep their opponents at arm’s length playing ‘bend but not break’ defence. Spirited tackling from Harry Rackham and sacks by Ross Hubbard and Garvin Yarde continued to contain Warriors offence.
This effort was exemplified by Linebacker Kase Chibwe chasing down the opposing running back and tackling him inside the five-yard line when he looked certain to score. South Wales were unable to convert and were pushed back out of field goal range by an Eagles goal-line stand.
The fourth quarter was played out with both sides exchanging possession until the Warriors drove in the last two minutes. The Eagles may have thought they had closed it out with their opponents facing fourth down with one second of the game left, however the hosts brilliantly converted a scrambling play to score in the corner as time expired.
The Warriors’ ensuing two-point conversion attempt was snuffed out by a gang of Eagles tacklers leaving them to edge a close one by 14-12 and take the win back east.
Both teams should take credit for producing an exciting game played in a great spirit. The Eagles will be glad to get that one out of the way and will look forward to hosting the game five return in Bedford on Sunday 11 June.
The next challenge is another road trip, this time to Southampton to face the Solent Thrashers, on Sunday 30th April.
Photo courtesy of Daria Urban.