A weekend of activity across the Under19’s game, with much of the top tier taking to the field, alongside a brace of tournaments in the second tier:
Under 19’s Week Nine Recap
By Alex McLachlan
Birmingham Lions vs Nottingham Caesars
In a repeat of last year’s National Plate Final, the Nottingham Caesars visited the Birmingham Lions in the hope that their young squad could overcome the perennial powerhouse that is the Lions.
Unfortunately, this was not to be, as a spate of injuries left the Nottingham outfit unable to continue and the game was called at the half with the score at 30-0 in favour of the Lions.
The Lions deserve immense credit for their professionalism in this one. After an undoubtedly disheartening opening day loss to the East Kilbride Pirates, as well as missing as many as twelve players from their squad, the Lions were potentially at risk going into this one. However, the class of the individuals shone through. University of Birmingham Wide Receiver Ben Murphy, who is slated to make a big impact on the university game next season, had a field day racking up an incredible three touchdowns and over 100 yards in just the first half. Though the young playmaker, was undoubtedly helped by his team’s blocking (with two of the touchdowns coming on screens), he still displayed great hands and a surprising turn of pace for such a big target.
The Caesars, meanwhile, were hurt early by injuries, and things only spiralled from there. Losing dual threat Morgan Dodson, as well as star corner Luca Melero within the first five minutes, the Caesars had to rely heavily on inexperienced players in key positions. This shouldn’t take away from the Lions, however.
With a receiver in at Quarterback the Caesars were looking to establish a running game, which the Lions defence, led by a standout performance from George Rimes, simply did not allow them to do.
This result was a much-needed morale boost for the Lions, reclaiming a .500 record and looking to continue winning ways from here on out. For the Caesars, meanwhile, this game provided a learning experience for many young players, who will now know what it is like to face a true challenge and will hopefully be able to stand up to whatever faces them next.
East Kilbride Pirates V Merseyside Nighthawks
By Bruin White
Merseyside travelled to East Kilbride on Sunday with a 2-2 record. The Pirates’ undefeated run continued, delivering a 58-8 statement win over the visitors.
The Nighthawks will have been pleased, initially, when EKP’s superstar Quarterback Sam Montgomerie left the game due to injury just minutes after the opening kickoff. Lucklessly for them, however, this did not change a thing for the Pirates’ overwhelming offence.
Backup Scott McKigen – who you may remember from East Kilbride’s U17 Championship team – returned to the form seen in his youth days, throwing a touchdown from his opening snap. He threw for three more throughout the game, with scores landing in the hands of Ssarien Liddell, Ben Braidwood, Struan Bailey, Fraser McDonald and Christian Rubuga – a total of 5 passing touchdowns for the Pirates. A sixth offensive touchdown came from a Jack Cochrane run.
Offensive weapons nullified, a single rushing score for Merseyside will come as little consolation for them from the #50Burger that EKP put up.
Nevertheless, as HC Rich Merrick points out, “you can only be the best by playing the best”.
Even for the victors, there is room for improvement – as East Kilbride HC Matthew Davies discusses
“Special teams weren’t as sharp as I’d like […] both sides of the ball need more tempo and urgency about their approach”.
Now left with a month to prepare for the Birmingham Lions, Merseyside will have one final chance to even out their regular season record. East Kilbride, on the other hand, strive for another perfect season, hosting the Manchester Titans in three weeks’ time.
London Blitz vs Hertfordshire Cheetahs
By Jordan Fearon-Lee
The London Blitz continue their winning ways, advancing to 3-0 on the season with a 20-13 win over the Hertfordshire Cheetahs.
It was not an ideal start for either team with QB Liam MacGovern throwing a pick on the first play of the game, setting up the Blitz. This, however, was matched with the Blitz fumbling on their first possession giving the ball back to Hertfordshire.
The Herts opened the scoring with a Touchdown, coming from MacGovern throwing a quick slant to WR Declan Gleghorn. Unfortunately, the extra point was missed giving the Blitz a chance to take the lead. This came to fruition as Blitz RB Jason Soetan took a long run to the house to tie the game before converting a 2-point conversion, taking the lead 8-6.
After an exchange of more turnovers, MacGovern hit rookie WR Ben Wilson for a TD in his debut game, following a ridiculous one-handed catch by Jack Stodel to set up the score. The Blitz weren’t backing down as QB Marco Livi converted a third down deep pass for a TD to WR Malachi Marquis-Adams, giving the Blitz the lead into the half 14-13.
The second half reflected the first, as the teams exchanged turnovers, but neither team could comfortably finish their drives. Herts showed some heart as TEs Joe McGregor and rookie Luke Verney starred after the half, fighting to give their team the lead, whilst, Hert’s Defensive MVP Jack Channer did all he could to keep his team in the game.
Momentum seemed to be on Hertfordshire’s side after Coach Halms opted to run a fake punt on the Cheetahs own 10-yard line, with Stodel completing the attempt. But, in the end the Blitz defence stood strong getting a couple of picks and OLB Emmanuel Akaba returning one for a pick six, putting the final nail in the coffin with the score at 20-13.
Cheetah’s coach, Coach Alex Halms, described the game as, ‘An important benchmark’, but sees a lot ‘resting on Solent in a week.’
This result shows huge progress from last season’s 48-0 loss, and Herts know that the upset was within their grasp. All focus must be on finishing June 2-1, with a path still open for a rematch vs the Blitz in the playoffs.
On the flip side, the Blitz will use the game as a foundation to improve on later in the season. The team shared:
“[It was] good win against solid competition and an exciting base to build off going into the second half of the season. Looking to Sunday, the team looks set to improve in all facets of the game with an explosive offense putting more trust into Livi’s arm after seeing his success against Hertfordshire. The defence should look even meaner with the return of Malachi Jameson to the line and will look to disrupt the Cobham backfield with speed and strength.”
Thames Valley Tigers Vs London Warriors
By Ryan Duff
On Sunday, the London Warriors improved to 2-2 whilst the Thames Valley Tigers netted their first
points of the season in a game which proved far closer than many expected.
Facing a team blown out by over 60 points against Cobham and 56 against Solent, the London
Warriors would have expected a similar outcome in their fourth match of the season. Instead,
Thames Valley’s talented defence limited the London side to just three Touchdowns, and put up a
score of their own in the fourth quarter. The Warriors will be pleased to have come away with a still
convincing 22-6 victory, but the score line may raise some questions regarding the effectiveness of
the Warriors’ passing offense.
The Warriors rushing attack meanwhile raised no such doubts, with RB Jaymyn Haddad running in
two scores before Manny Dadzie broke free on an electrifying 60 yard score to keep the game out of
reach for the Tigers.
Not content with just making an impact on the offense, Dadzie also snagged an interception, as did
Connor Robinson and Joel Hunsley, punishing DE and stand in QB Lewis Mees for a couple of
Low numbers and players playing both ways have plagued the Tigers all season long, but this week
the small squad of 13 put on an impressive performance, with Mees hitting TE Lewis Marstin in the
left corner of the end-zone for the first touchdown in the teams’ young history.
Thames Valley will look to build upon their first score when they face the Hertfordshire Cheetahs in
two weeks’ time, whilst the Warriors face some uncertainty as to their next game, with Sussex
withdrawing from the league, and their missed game against Hertfordshire yet to be rescheduled.
The Leeds Academy Assassins hosted the Northern contingent of Division Two for the three teams’ second instalment of fixtures.
The Black Country Vipers came in as favourites having won both of their games in the first tilt between the three sides in Chorley earlier in the month, however, from the outset it was clear things weren’t going to go as smoothly for the Vipers.
The midlands side came up two points short against hosts, the Assassins 27-25, and compounded their grief when the Chorley Buccaneers found some previously unseen offensive potential and bested the Vipers 38-20 in the final game of the day, earning the Bucs their first win of the season.
The Assassins wrapped up their hosting with a 32-23 win over Chorley and so 2-0 in their home tourney, the Assassins move top of the conference at this crucial point in the season.
That said, assuming the top two teams from the north get an opportunity for postseason action? It’s all to play for in the North, with a 3-3 tie between all three teams still on the cards.
The East Kent Mavericks hosted the Cambridgeshire Cats and Essex Spartans as the second half of the southern conference kicked off their campaigns.
From the outset the Essex Spartans Academy appeared set on making a statement, and emerged convincing victors on the day with two shut out victories over the Cats and Mavs – 42-0 and 15-0 respectively.
Hosts East Kent can at least take some solace from their win over Cambridgeshire, 28-8, while the Cats crucially ensured they found paydirt in their first outing this season, giving them something to build on moving forwards.
For Essex and East Kent there’s only a brief break before the two sides will see one another once again, meeting next week as the Spartans host the Mavs and Cardinals – a great opportunity for the Essex team to move to 4-0 if they play to form.