We finally kick start our Junior (U19) coverage (apologies!) by taking a look at the action from week four. Two sides new to the National Leagues started their campaigns in the Southern Conference, while in the Northern Conference, Manchester Titans looked to resume their fine for from 2016.
Merseyside Nighthawks 0-47 Manchester Titans
The Nighthawks hosted the Titans on Sunday hoping to reverse the fortunes of the last campaign. In 2016, the Titans finished 6-0 and North Two champions, whilst Merseyside finished dead last with an 0-6 record.
The Titans were in control from the start as on the opening drive, QB Ben Miles made big gains on the ground before finding WR Sam Harrop for the score. With the 2PAT successful, the offense were back on the sideline...but not for long. A fumble recovery saw the Titans take to the field once again. Displaying the dominating form from last year, Manchester quickly found the end zone again as Miles connected with Ben Neill.
Miles would rack up his third score when he found Anele Hlongwane following a blocked punt as all three Titans units were finding their groove.
The defense got in on the action through a pick six from Lewis Parker, before Miles connected with Hlongwane again to take a 40-0 lead in to half time.
A quieter second half courtesy of a rolling clock (+10 DC Twitter points for the Rollin' tweet, folks) saw Miles throw his fifth touchdown of the game, this time to rookie Bill Tut to end the scoring at 47-0.
Nottingham Caesars 12-0 Lincolnshire Bombers
The Caesars came in to 2017 on the back of a strong 2016 campaign that saw shock (at least, outside of Nottingham) wins over Farnham in the regular season and London Blitz in the playoffs before coming up short against Highland Wildcats in the Plate final.
Head Coach George Lees will be happy with the result against the Bombers on Sunday, as rushing scores from Tom Henley and Alax McLachlan gave the Caesars the win. In what looks to be a very competitive conference with the likes of the Titans, Pirates and Wildcats, getting off to a winning start was imperative.
The Bombers, back in the league following their absence last season, will be encouraged by a far better defensive display than their season opening defeat against Chester.
Essex Spartans 20-24 Hertfordshire Cheetahs
One of two associate sides to play against league opposition this season in order to ensure a 6-game schedule, Essex Spartans could have been in the league themselves, having had the required numbers to compete. However, they've taken a slow and steady approach to entry, and gave a good account of themselves against Hertfordshire - new to the league in 2017 - on Sunday.
After kicking off and forcing a quick three and out from the Spartans, Hertfordshire took the lead courtesy of an outside run by RB Jack Stodel. Rinse and repeat on the following changes of possession as RB Francois Earp made yards on the ground before QB Ollie Mulcahy connected with Charlie Hardiman on a deep ball to set up Stodel to run in for his second score of the day.
With halftime approaching, the Spartans figured out a way to deal with the Cheetahs' pressure on defense, and managed to pull back a score before the end of the second quarter when QB Ryan McLoughlin found Bleu Thompson in the endzone. Like the Cheetahs though, the Spartans couldn't tack on any points after and went in to the half trailing 12-6.
The second half opened with a flurry of penalties and turnovers, which included an ejection for both sides. The Spartans tied the game up with a fumble recovery in the endzone by Lewis Hall (conversion again failed) before the Cheetahs began to pull away. RB Stodel found the endzone another couple of times behind the hard blocking of FB Alfie Nash to take his tally to notch up an Abraham to start the season and give Hertfordshire a 24-20 win.
Kent Exiles 16-12 Solent Seahawks
The 2017 Under 19 Champions, Kent Exiles, opened the defense of their title with a narrow win over the newly rebranded Solent Seahawks, who posted a 2-4 record in 2016.
With no pre-season game and a heavy dose of rookie intake, Coach Aaron Alexis focused on defensive discipline against a well-drilled Seahawks offense. Against a very good group of Solent linebackers, the Exiles struggled to move the ball as the Seahawks gave Kent no room to run.
Just as half time approached, the Exiles scored on a reverse but score the TD scrubbed off with a flag. Coming out all square after the half time break, the Exiles took the lead when QB Liam Trundley found Kaan Aray, converting the 2PAT as Trundley found Tom Lee in the endzone for an 8-0 lead. The Seahawks pulled the score back to 8-6 before Exiles RB Prince Wynter found the endzone in the fourth quarter, with Trundley once again connecting with Lee for the 2PAT. As the game wound down, the Seahawks narrowed the gap to four points with another touchdown, but the game ended without further score.
Rob somehow fits Britball around a hectic life of work, newborns, and rare, blissful, moments of quiet in which to nap. Rob stepped down from the Birmingham Bulls committee at the end of 2016 and walked away after 10 years at the club. He leads DC's Adult league coverage and dabbles in a bit of BUCS. Follow him on Twitter - @RobAmorDC