Under19s | 2018 National Plate Final Recap
By Bruin White
In a highly anticipated game between a Scottish perennial junior football powerhouse and a dark horse from Hertfordshire, the East Kilbride Pirates reigned supreme in a 46-0 blowout.
The Cheetahs’ U19 programme has spent 2018 surprising everybody, finishing the regular season with a 5-1 record – the only loss having come to the repeating champions, the London Blitz, in a nail-biter. But, in the highest-profile game they’d played all year, the wildcard of the season suffered mightily from injuries and absences – culminating in their eventual disintegration.
The Pirates – also 5-1 in the 2018 regular season – kicked off to the Cheetahs to start the game in hopes of the upset they’d previously suffered at the hands of Manchester, who had taken East Kilbride’s opportunity for a rematch with the Blitz in the final. The notorious Pirates D forced the makeshift Cheetahs O into a safety right off the bat, giving East Kilbride an early head start. East Kilbride’s offence took over and marched up the field for a score, Sam Montgomerie throwing a touchdown on fourth-and-long. A three-and-out from Herts set up set up the Pirates for a rushing touchdown which, with both 2PATs having been converted, left the scoreline at 18-0 at the end of the half.
To begin the 3rd quarter, the ball was tossed around a bit between the two teams. Sooner or later, though, one team was to find a break – and the Pirates had all the luck again. A Lee Chappell rushing score followed quickly by another, this time from Jack Cochrane, meant within the short time of six minutes the Pirates had found themselves an extra 12 points up - leading the Cheetahs by a comfortable 30 points by the end of the quarter.
The fourth quarter started with an EKP drive which resulted in a great throw on the run from Montgomerie to receiver Scott McKigen on a broken play to extend the lead to 38-0. The disheartened Hertfordshire team seemed to yield at this point, allowing red-jerseyed defenders to storm through untouched to make the sack, and chased Herts quarterback Liam MacGovern around the backfield relentlessly. Late in the fourth, the Pirates handed it to stand-out back Jack Cochrane for one last rushing score on the year – the ultimate tally standing at 46-to-nothing, Pirates.
Hertfordshire’s season seems somewhat like a candle that burned too quickly after such a strong start. HC Alex Halms concedes
“We [Hertfordshire] collapsed in the second half. It was a real shame, after the season showed such promise after the close game versus Blitz and the win versus the Seahawks”.
Not too bothered by the performance in the Plate, though, the young Head Coach is already feeling optimistic about next season. Talking about ‘bridging the gap’ between a big Plate defeat and a possible championship next year, he claims that few players are to graduate, and their experience of a finals game will be “hugely beneficial”. Halms continues, explaining that
“It’s a big step up…but our guys can now see the gap and, whilst the scoreline might not suggest it, I think they see what they have to do to bridge said gap”.
The Cheetahs continue to be an exciting team to follow, with their adult counterpart competing in the Division 2 South final this coming weekend.
East Kilbride bounced back from a shaky period earlier in the year with this dominant Plate victory, dropping just one spot in the national rankings from their runners-up status in last year’s Bowl game which really demonstrates their competitive greatness at the top tier of junior football. Long-standing Head Coach Matthew Davies, affectionately nicknamed ‘Spoonie’ by the Britball community, applauds his team for the win:
“They played the most complete game they’d played all year. Everything we asked of them they executed and I couldn’t have been prouder of them”.
This game marked the end of an era” Davies explains, where the guys who were in their first year when the current coaching staff took over, played their last game last Sunday – so next year will be interesting for onlookers. In line with their reputation for great organisation, Davies tells that “all of the sessions and camp for 2019 are booked so it’ll then be a case of enjoying some downtime with families before it all starts again”.
The Pirates continue to be a dominant force at the Under 19 and Under 17 level, with some graduating players hopefully helping the senior team back to the Premiership having faced relegation to Division One – perhaps graduates from either team will meet again in the Div One Final next year?