Pulling The Flag

Britbowl glory for Cardiff, Chorley & Marlow

The dust has settled on Britbowl for another year – but the celebrations continue for the Hurricanes, Buccaneers and Wolves.

The Cardiff Hurricanes stretched their winning streak to 32 with their most important victory to date – a 38-26 win over the Sheffield Predators.

For the Chorley Buccaneers, a fourth-straight trip to the cadet finals finally ended in glory, as they defeated the Coventry Cougars 33-13.

And it’s two in a row for the Marlow Wolves, who beat the Horsham Barbarians 33-7 in the youth final.

The Football America BAFA flag finals in Docaster kicked off with a flurry of matches early yesterday morning. Marlow won a shootout against Doncaster to book their youth final place, while Horsham edged it in overtime against Coventry.

Marlow’s defense of their crown got off to a storming start. Led by some solid quarterbacking and opportunistic interceptions, the Wolves opened up a 27-0 lead at the half. The Barbarians got on the board with a long bomb late on, but the Wolves ran out 33-7 victors.

However, the Wolves missed out on a second final at cadet level. Instead, it was the Coventry Cougars who booked Thor place against a Chorley Buccaneers side that was playing in their fourth-straight final.

Chorley had lost out on the previous three occasions, and fell behind early to two big heaves into the endzone on late downs. They hauled it back to 13-7 and were stopped just short of a second TD in the waning seconds of the first half. But a second half leveller – coupled with a crucial pick on the next drive – gave them the momentum, and they didn’t hand it back.

As the defense tightened, the offense did the rest, easing ahead for a 33-13 victory with the roar of Chorley’s excellent support surging from the stand.

In the adult competition, Cardiff got off to a slow start. The Hurricanes were fancied by many to claim the crown, but they found themselves 24-12 down at the half to a marauding Aberdeen Oilcats team. However, with the season on the line, the Hurricanes pulled out a win by the skin of their teeth, sneaking into the final by a score of 32-30.

The Leicester Eagles and Sheffield Predators played out a nervy defensive first half in their game, going into the break at 6-6. The Predators got a second TD, and stopped the Eagles in the red zone. Then the game turned on two plays. First, Matt Lollar found David Saul on a length-of-the-field third-down play, and then Dean Whittingslow seized a pick-six on first down to puncture Leicester’s hopes.

With a 26-6 win in the books, attentions turned to the third-place playoff. In the end, it was Aberdeen who claimed the bronze over Leicester.

So what of the final?

Two unbeaten teams played out the last action of the 2014 adult flag season, and it was Cardiff who came out of the blocks  quickest. Quarterback Joe Cotterill was happy to sit in the pocket and take the throws the Predators gave him, scoring touchdowns on his first three drives. The Predators had one of their own, but it was 19-7 at one point in this one.

The Predators have built a season on self-belief, and they were never going to make it easy on the Hurricanes. Josh Allen’s two touchdowns on either side of the half made it 19-19, and from then on it was a case of who would hold their nerve.

Alex Vakili put Cardiff seven-up, but Tim Darracott hauled Sheffield level once again. Joe Cotterill wasn’t fazed, connecting with Richard Phelps on a huge pass, and then zipping it to Phelps again for the score. But the missed extra point gave the Predators a chance to pull off a dramatic victory.

On fourth down, the Preds were in the red zone and looking threatening, but Matt Lollar’s final pass into the back corner was just out of the reach of Tim Darracott.

Cardiff handed the ball to Nick Keyse to run down that last minute of clock, and were somewhat surprised when he ran the length of the field for a sideline-skating score.

Despite an excellent performance from the Predators, it was Cardiff who claimed their first Britbowl crown by a score of 38-26.

Who’s looking forward to 2015 already?

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