If the teams competing in this weekend’s Britbowl XXX National Championship game seem familiar?
Well, there’s probably a reason for that.
Do not adjust your television sets – yes the highlights below are from five different Britbowl Finals, Britbowls XXV through XXIX, all contested between the London Blitz (who are headed to their 11th straight Britbowl appearance) and the London Warriors, who are looking to make it four National Championships on the trot!
The 2011 National Championship game was hosted in the Crystal Palace National Sports Arena – the largest venue to host the Championship matches in many years. Despite being played in London, between two London teams, attendance was surprisingly poor and led to criticism of the choice of venue, wherein only three of the four banks of floodlights were functional for the game – even so we’re assured it was far better lit in person that it appears on the highlight reel!
Britbowl XXV represents the London Warriors first ever trip to a National Championship game, and their nerves on the big occasion were apparent. The first score came from a botched snap going out the back of the Warriors’ end zone, and the final tally of 18-0 to the Blitz means the Warriors are one of only two National Championship contenders to be completely shut out in the big game.
Also of note, the 2011 Britbowl MVP was Blitz QB Fred Boyle, who this weekend will be leading the Bury Saints in the Division One National Championship Final, having come out of retirement to join the Saints last season.
2012 saw the Bowl venue return to the North… Or the ‘middle’ from the perspective of the Scottish teams, with the finals hosted in Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium. It was a far more confident start from the Warriors, keeping things tight early in the game – only for the Blitz to turn on the gas in the second half.
Finding themselves in a 34-7 hole, Warriors RB Jermaine Allen, joining the Warriors roster that season after two years with the NFL and NFL Europe, tried to lead a late fourth quarter comeback, but the final score of 34-21 will still have been a disappointment for the Warriors who had defeated the Blitz twice in the regular season.
Quarterback Fred Boyle once again earned himself the distinction of Britbowl MVP for a second straight year.
The tide was obviously on the turn, and a mid-season morale injection from the NFL great, Ray Lewis, saw the Warriors once again do the double over their North London rivals during the regular season.
Come the title game, hosted in the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds, and the Warriors immediately displayed the development of their aerial attack. Much of the game was dominated by the defences, but Quarterback Jerome Allen connected with his favourite target Romaine Jackson for two TDs to give the Warriors a 13-9 lead going into the fourth quarter.
However, looking to grind out the clock, a bobbled pitch on a sweep was scooped up by the Blitz defence. The Blitz quickly capitalised, Boyle connecting with Jack Daley for a go-ahead score, giving the Blitz a 3 point lead with the clock running down.
Even so, the game was far from over! Jerome Allen and the Warriors bit right back, connecting with Romaine Jackson once again, for a 45 yard TD pass, and a 3 point lead of their own! Blitz began driving, but a series of poor plays stalled them at around half way, and then with the pressure mounting the punt snap flew high, setting the Warriors up with great field position to close out the game. Allen went long, and hearts hit throats as the Blitz defender was the first to get hands to the ball… only to tip it into the waiting hands of Romaine Jackson for his fourth receiving TD of the day. Boyle took the Blitz right back down the field once again with a series of sharp passes, finding Andrew Cropper to bring the game within 3 points once more… But they were unable to recover the ensuing onside kick and the Warriors hoisted their first ever Britbowl! Unsurprisingly, Romaine Jackson took home the MVP Trophy, with two-time Bowl MVP Fred Boyle declaring his retirement after the gruelling loss (for a bit, at least).
With both teams back in Leeds once more, the new league format had only seen the two London sides meet once in the regular season – a meeting the Warriors had dominated in a 33-13 bullying of the Blitz.
There were fears of a one-sided final, but these were quickly laid to rest as the two sides ground out a gritty defensive battle. Reminiscent of XXV, the first score of the game came from a botched Warriors punt snap leading to a safety.
2-0 to the Blitz entering the fourth quarter, the Warriors eventually took a single point lead off the back of a short field goal, and followed this up by taking advantage of costly Blitz mistakes and penalties to finally score the first touchdown of the game, Dwayne Watson taking a dive from the 25 all the way into the end zone.
Running low on clock, Blitz QB Ross Hill set the Blitz off down the field once more, but trying to make something out of a broken play he took a shot to the head and appeared to cough the ball up for the Warriors to recover. Ruled down by contact Tim Liechti stepped in under centre for the Blitz, having led the team to nine regular season wins before dropping to second string in the postseason. The Blitz weren’t immediately able to consolidate, but on the following drive Liechti looked short, threw long, and found David Protheroe for the 61 yard score.
The Blitz had one last chance to tie the game up and take it to overtime… but the play-action pass fell incomplete and the Warriors took home trophy #2, narrowing their 3 point margin of victory in 2013, down to only 2 points!
And finally to 2015 and one of the most hotly contested Britbowls in Britball history. With the two sides having split their regular season fixtures – the Blitz taking the more recent in an outstanding defensive showing where they held the Warriors prolific offence to only a single score – everything was set for one helluva a Britball game.
It’d be difficult to really describe how tense this one was… So just go watch!