It was the biggest game of the year so far, but commitments meant DC weren’t able to attend in the numbers we’d have liked. As such, when long-time London Britball fan Fabrizio Gargiulo got in touch with DC about writing some football-focused strength and conditioning pieces? We immediately took him up on the off! …So long as he also gave us the low down on what sounds like one hell of an opener to the biggest rivalry in Britball!
London Blitz vs London Warriors is still the Premier fixture of the BAFA regular season and this Sunday saw a classic encounter between the two rivals, harking back to the hard fought battles from years gone by.
The London Warriors have ruled the roost in British football for the past 4 seasons, taking home the National title against the London Blitz on each occasion. The Blitz had won the previous four titles before that – a glimpse into the dominance the London teams have had over the rest of the UK. Thus the Warriors rightly entered this game as the hot favourites in this traditionally closely contested and hard-fought local derby.
The opening couple of drives went true to the nature of the competitiveness and hard hitting of both defences, littered with some of the best players in the UK game. Linebackers Ariel Mofondo for the Warriors and Eddie Cheadle for the Blitz forcing punts to be exchanged by both teams.
GB Lions star QB, Jerome Allen, soon had his next chance to lead the Warriors, he drove them into red-zone territory only for Blitz juniors graduate Luke Pendergast to come up with a timely interception and halt the drive. Blitz took over under the helm of QB Joe Thompson and RBs Glen Toonga and Temi Oduyemi, however they too were misfiring in the first half and a deep pass attempt saw Thompson intercepted by Jed Watkins to round out a scoreless first half.
The second half came to life and both offences started moving the ball, however a Blitz fumble in their own half gave the Warriors the ball in good field position and behind the offensive line led by GB captain Victor Bama, another GB athlete in running back Dwayne Watson forced his way in from 10 yards for the games’ opening score.
Thompson and Blitz O-Line, containing GB talent in Matt Meyer and Azmi Sbaiti got the ball moving again with completions through the air to Aaron Linley, Sam Rogers and Gabriel Quarty. Temi and the run game also kicked in, thundering between the tackles for several good gains before running back Dwight Caulker caught a screen pass from fellow University of Hertfordshire Alumni, Thompson, and with blockers in front weaved his way in for six to give the home crowd a reason to cheer. Without a kicker for the extra point Blitz went for two, with Gabriel Quarty muscling in to give the Blitz a slender 8-7 lead.
The joy of being in front against their cross-town rivals was however short-lived. The ensuing kickoff landed in the hands of arguably the fastest man on the field in Josh Amis, who used his blockers to full effect, torching the Blitz coverage unit to return the ball for an immediate score. The PAT attempt however clanged into the crossbar leaving the Warriors with a 13-8 lead going into the final three & half minutes.
Blitz began their final offensive drive of the day on their own 35 and despite a couple of errant passes, Thompson came up big in the clutch moments, securing a completion on 4th and 5 and then connecting with Mike Aboujaoude from 40 yards out. Mike made one cut and turned on the jets as he ran in for the go-ahead score. An unsuccessful 2-point try from Thompson, left the score precariously balanced at 14-13 in favour of ‘Big Blue’.
With 90 seconds remaining however the game was still not done. Amis once again used his speed and vision to carry the kick off into Blitz territory. Allen connected on a pass and Watson ran for 5 yards to set up Ian Jacquet for the game winning field goal attempt. Jacquet had caused Blitz severe heartache two years prior in the National final, securing a game winning field goal from 35 yards to give the Warriors their 3rd National title, so Blitz Defensive co-ordinator, Duncan Burford tried the classic ‘icing the kicker’ timeout just before the attempt.
Jacquet composed himself second time around, however with a full on onslaught of rushing Blitz defenders his attempt came up short and wide left. Rapturous celebrations erupted on the Blitz sideline as they were able to kneel out the game and claim first blood against the Warriors this season.
There are two more regular season match ups for the Blitz vs Warriors this year (9th July and 6th August), with the winner of these encounters likely to be seeded #1 in the South, going into the playoffs.
Blitz may have successfully reclaimed the crown of London’s top team with this victory, however we are sure that the Warriors will be working hard to ensure that it doesn’t remain this way. An exciting regular season is predicted to ensue with the top 2 teams seemingly fighting it out again throughout the year.