Facing a resurgent Giants team, who needed to avoid defeat to maintain their place in the Premier North for another year, the Nighthawks got off to the worst possible start as the Giants returned the kick off for an early Touchdown. The extra point was tacked on, and the ‘Hawks were straight up against it.
The Giants returned the kick to the Hawks, and Routledge, back in the line up after missing the defeat against Tamworth last week, got to work. A 9 play drive, with a run heavy look in the wet conditions, stalled in the Sheffield half of the field as the Giants defence swarmed to the ball. Routledge pooch punted the ball into the Giants 20, and Sheffield took over, looking to extend their lead.
Beginning on their own 16 yard line, the Giants put together a good looking drive, moving the ball well during a 13 play series, which put them deep into the Hawks half. Just as it looked like the Giants would convert on 3rd down, the WR dropped a pass that hit him in the numbers and fell incomplete. The Giants sent out the punt team, which executed expertly and pinned the Hawks deep in their own 5.
Trying to get the offence moving in these conditions was proving difficult for Merseyside. The Giants forced a quick 3 and out, and got the ball in the Nighthawks half again. The Giants struggled to move the ball with the run on the first two downs, and forced the Sheffield QB to pass in the wet conditions. This would prove to be a turning point, as LB Stu Taggart jumped over the top of the falling Sheffield WR to spectacularly intercept the ball whilst heading to the ground. Nighthawks ball on their own 40.
The Nighthawks started to put together a good drive, moving the ball efficiently through a 13 yard catch and run by WR Dom Woo, before a holding penalty put them in a 1st and 20 situation. The first two run plays were stuffed by a surging Sheffield defence, before an 18 yard pass to WR Liam Holebrook put the Hawks in 1st and 10 situation from the Giants 12. The very next play, Routledge again found Holebrook, who was in the end zone for 6. The XP was up and good, and the Hawks were tied at 7-7.
The Nighthawks tried to catch the Giants sleeping with a high onside kick to restart the game. The Sheffield second line were wise to this and called for a fair catch. giving them the ball on the 35 yard line in their own half. The next play from scrimmage seemingly turned the game on it’s head again, as the Giants RB found some gaps in the Hawks defence, taking the ball down to the 5 yard line before being pushed out of bounds. The Hawks did what they have done well all year, stiffening in their own 5 to force the Giants into a field goal. The kicker scuffed the ball, but it still sailed through the uprights for a 10-7 Giants lead.
The Nighthawks got the ball back, but once again, found moving the ball difficult, despite a 15 yard penalty for pass interference during the series. Sheffield then had similar problems, turning the ball over on downs quickly, before another Nighthawks series passed without score. As we moved closer to half time, the Giants tried a fake punt from just inside their own half, which was snuffed out after the punter had thrown the ball to their WR, who was tackled just short of the down marker.
Merseyside came out and were looking to take advantage of good field position quickly, looking to score before the half. RBs Murphy and Zvarayi ground out some hard yards before an offside penalty gave the Hawks a new set of downs deep in the Giants red zone. Just as the away team looked to be in a position to score, the ball came out of Routledge’s hand squiffy, and straight to a waiting Giants defender, who returned the ball 10 yards before being tackled by Zvarayi, Routledge and OL Rodriguez. The Giants then ran the clock out to half time, and led 10-7 going into the break.