The triumphant Tamworth Phoenix return to domestic action this weekend, hosting a Nighthawks side who’ll be flying high after their final second heroics in Week Eight.
Meanwhile, down south we see what should be our most competitive weekend so far for the southern side of the top tier as the two big London teams take a break and allow the rest of the conference to duke it out in the annual scrum for #3 in the Prem South!
written by George Buksmann
Tamworth Phoenix vs Merseyside Nighthawks
What. A. Game. The Merseyside Nighthawks snagged their first win of the season in the dying seconds of last week’s game vs the Titans. Dubbed the ‘Miracle on Merseyside’, the Nighthawks walked away 44-41 victors.
Quarterback Ben Robinson opened the scoring early, running it up the middle. WR Dom Woo hauled in a touchdown pass to extend the Nighthawks lead, only for the Titans to hit back both times. Liam Holebrook added a field goal to close out the first half, giving Merseyside a slender 17-12 lead.
The Nighthawks came out firing once again in the second half. Robinson ran it in for a score again, following that Mark Houghton recovered a fumble allowing Jordan Houghton to bring in a touchdown catch of his own. Dave Sampson came down with an interception as Merseyside entered the fourth quarter 31-12 up.
Martin Murphy rumbled into the end zone, extending the Nighthawks lead again to 38-20. Manchester proved their Premier status by scoring three unanswered touchdowns bringing the score to 41-38. With one second remaining on the clock Robinson dropped back and put the ball up deep connecting with WR Alex Eager for the score, ending with jubilant scenes.
This was a game won in the trenches for Merseyside, their entire offensive line was named offensive MVP. They paved the way for 271 rushing yards, six total touchdowns, and no sacks. On the opposite side, defensive tackle Stephen Kilgannon was named defensive MVP, HC Craig Pennington said,
“Ste led the defensive line, pursued to the ball and ate up double teams all day.”
While some defensive frailties remain as Manchester put up 41 points, Merseyside have proved that their offence is more than capable of winning them games.
Tamworth also enter this week with a win on their backs, a statement victory over the Oslo Vikings saw them find their first European victory in club history.
“We approached Oslo the same way we approach any team, our preparation will be the same for Merseyside this week,”
said HC Jason Scott,
“We have a lot of respect for what they can do, and that showed last weekend. We just need a good week of practice, and to keep everyone fit.”
Coach Scott is pleased for his team,
“Pat had a stellar game passing for five touchdowns. Really happy with the offensive line, especially Jon Maisey who played superbly at Centre, and a nod has to go to Finley Old who scored his first career touchdown against Oslo.”
As with any team, the Phoenix have a few knocks. They will be missing Alex Lenkowski, which will be a blow for the team.
“He’s a great player and an even better teammate, so we’ll miss him on the sideline.”
Coach Scott said.
Marc Bonezebi made an impact at kicker and has impressed the head coach so the team will be ready to go at the weekend.
Looking ahead to Sunday Coach Scott shared.
“We just need to tackle better and block better. We have a game plan if we execute that, we’re in good shape.”
While Merseyside have certainly impressed it’ll be hard for them, if anyone, to beat Tamworth this season. The Nighthawks will score at least a couple of touchdowns but it won’t be enough to overcome the Phoenix who continue to be excellent. Tamworth to win.
written by Rose Wilford
Bristol Aztecs vs Farnham Knights
The Aztecs are currently sitting at 2-3, having only lost against the Blitz, twice and the Warriors once.
They only have to face the Warriors again once and with wins against the Olympians and Bury they are looking set to be sitting third in the table when the season finishes so long as they can play to form for the rest of the year.
This week they face the Knights at home, with their home field advantage and a long trek for the Knights they should face a good game against a team that has caused them problems in previous seasons.
After the Blitz game Sunday Head Coach Chris Powles shared,
“It was a frustrating game Sunday as I thought we played better than the first game. The first quarter was tight, the third quarter was scoreless. We just allowed the game to get out of control in the 4th. I thought we tackled better and the offence had some success but we had some unfortunate turnovers and poor special teams plays that gave Blitz a short field and to their credit they took advantage.
You just can’t make the mistakes we did against top teams. But we can take some positives forward, we competed for large periods, and if we clean up the mistakes we know we can play to a high level. We are only half way through the season so we have a lot of football ahead of us, we are still in good shape and our eyes are firmly pointed ahead.”
The Knights are currently sitting at 1-3 with 185pts against them, having got their win from Bury, while similar to Bristol, having taken big-margin losses against the two stronger London teams.
This week sees them travelling to the Bristol side that they should be more than capable of competing with.
Should they find a way to snag the win this weekend, it’ll put them in a better position as they head into weeks eleven and thirteen - the daunting prospect of back to back games against the Warriors.
They follow this by rounding out their year with four straight home games, but would ideally want a second win under their belt if they plan to chase the more-accessible #3 spot in the south.
Both sides have found themselves well off the pace of the big London teams, both have bested Bury, so perhaps the way to tell them apart is their showings against the Olympians?
Given that Bristol took the W 20-7 back in Week Three, whereas the Knights game up short 30-20 in Week Six, it certainly looks like the south west side should have the edge here. This one should go to the Aztecs.
London Olympians vs Bury Saints
After the Olympians were shut out 55-0 at home to the Warriors last weekend, this Sunday they host the Bury Saints.
The recently promoted Os currently sit at 1-3, having played the Warriors twice, the Knights once and the Aztecs once - their only win has come from their game against the Knights, a record which would see them cling onto their fourth-place spot in the table if they maintain their form.
Across from them, Bury have had a tough time of it so far this year. Sitting at 0-5, they’ve struggled for player numbers this year and are currently looking like the weakest link in the top tier. They hit a particular low in their forfeit to the Warriors in Week Six, but since then I have to give them props for their commitment to playing the season.
Each game for them will give the rookies they’re carrying more experience at the top level of the game, and if they have intentions of picking up Ws this year, odds are it’s these games against the Os and Knights that will be circled in their calendar as the best opportunities to do so.