Worcestershire Black Knights have opened their BAFA SFC2 West campaign with a victory after defeating the Jurassic Coast Raptors 32-12.
Following two closely fought encounters last season both teams entered this game with hopes held high that they might be able to assert early season dominance, and create inertia moving into the season.
Having won the toss, Head Coach Rich Smith sent his defence out to attempt to set the tone for the game. The Knights defence were however somewhat caught off guard by the doublewing scheme being operated by this years Raptors, and succumbed to an early score from David Lalaye, leaving them trailing 0-6.
The Knights offence immediately made their presence felt, and solid work up front from an inspired offensive line saw running back Sean Franks go over for the score. Unfortunately James Browning was unable to convert the PAT and early in the 1st honours were, once again, even.
Jurassic Coast’s offence took to the turf, and steadily began marching down field. The introduction of former Tamworth Phoenix cornerback Tom Tandurella seemed to have stemmed the tide, but this was only momentary relief, as the Raptors went on to record their second score of the day courtesy of Ben Gibson. Another failed PAT saw the visiting side lead 6-12 late in the first quarter.
The Knights offence took to the field, and marched straight into the endzone, another rushing touchdown for running back Sean Franks. This time Browning was able to convert the PAT, and the Knights now led 13-12.
From two teams who appeared to be stuck in a frontal war of attrition last season, it appeared that this seasons encounter was going to be a largely different affair. It looked like a shootout was on the cards! End to end offence beckoned.
Both teams knew that the first defence to make a stop would change the game.
The Knights didn’t have to wait long.
Following the restart the Raptors offence took to the field. Having relied heavily on the run game to this point, a change of tactic saw the Raptors quarterback Sean Tapping looking to connect with his receivers, to bring another dimension to the game.
In damp conditions, the pass went astray, and was welcomingly received by Knights Safety, Matt Clark. The turnover saw Worcestershire take possession in the Raptors half, with time running down on the second half.
As if to add insult to injury, Knights quarterback Matt Cole took control of the field, relentlessly driving his team towards the Raptors endzone. The drive culminated in a connection between Cole , and the Knights speedster, Wide Receiver, James Browning, who cruised into the endzone for the 5th, and Knights 3rd score of the day. Another successful conversion saw Worcestershire lead 20-12. Halftime loomed.
The Black Knights received the ball to start the second half, hopeful that they could continue their previous momentum, and continue to pound the ball home.
Whilst the drive started convincingly, a resurgent Raptor defence stalled the Knights around midfield, forcing the punt.
Having seen the punt return team drop deep in readiness for the kick, Knights Punter Chris Jones, faked the punt, rolled out right, and cantered past the down markers, to move the chains – the Knights offence was still rolling.
More hard-nosed running shortly saw Sean Franks go over for his 3rd touchdown of the day. Another failed conversion nearly caused problems for the Knights as the ball was blocked and gathered by the Raptors, however Browning recovered to make the tackle.
The Black Knights, now in a dominant position at 26-12, were able to get some of the rookies on the field, to get their first taste of competitive American Football.
With time running short in the 4th quarter, Matt Cole once again looked to push on and complete the victory.
With under a minute remaining Cole saw Jones get separation on the left side of the field, and threw a perfectly weighted ball into Jones’ waiting arms. Pass complete in the endzone, and Jones has a touchdown to add to his fake punt heroics from earlier in the game.
Worcestershire’s 2 point attempt was unsuccessful, and the clock ran out, bringing the game to a close. Final Black Knights 32 – 12 Raptors.
MVPs: Offence – Sean Franks, Defence – Tom Tandurella
Worcestershire Black Knights travel to Bridgwater to face the Somerset Wyverns in a battle with mythical connotations on the 29th April. The game will be played at Petherton RFC, Beggars Brook, Taunton Rd, North Petherton, Bridgwater, TA6 6NW.