Pulling The Flag

South West Series: The Beginning

Remember the South West? Those poor folks that have to make road-trips to your gamedays that would make The Lord of the Rings look like a stroll to the corner shop?

Well, they’re finally making normal, human commutes to games, thanks to the South West Series. With two tournaments down, we look at how it’s shaped up so far…

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TOURNAMENT 1 (Marjon University Sports Park)

Due to insurance issues with a number of Cornish players, the Hammerheads were forced to pull out of the series opener, meaning a bit of schedule mixing and matching needing to be done.

Fortunately, the Hammerheads were not scheduled to attend GameDay 2 in Exeter, so Series organiser Ieuan Tucker switched the schedules.

 

Table (after tournament 1)

Team Games Played Wins Draws Loss PTS FOR PTS AG PTS DIF OVR PTS
Plmouth Buccaneers 2 2 0 0 111 13 98 10
Exeter Falcons 2 2 0 0 56 19 37 10
Marjon Lions 2 0 0 2 13 68 -55 2
Plym Uni Bolts 2 0 0 2 19 99 -80 2
Cornish Hammerheads 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

 

 

 

Buccaneers Plain Sailing to Double Victory

Our Series favourites played true to form in their debut against the Bolts and Lions. The Bucs bullied the Bolts right from the first snap as they scored offensively and defensively. Buccaneers safety James Stockley opened the scoring on the Bolts first drive with a pick-six. From there it went from bad to worse for the Bolts as Bucs ran away for a blistering 66-13 victory.

As the weather began to turn, the Bucs and Lions hurried to get the second fixture underway as quickly as possible. However, the worsening conditions did nothing to slow the Buccaneers down as they pillaged the hosts’ defense and plundered a 45-point shutout victory to solidify their position at the top of the table after day 1.

Quarterbacks Gareth Hawcroft and Iain Sawczyszak both finished with 3 passing touchdowns on the day and Adam Lines added a further two. James Stockley and Sam Smith jockeyed for defensive MVP, accounting for 6 and 5 interceptions respectively. However, Stockley was able to convert 3 of his picks into points while Smith added a further one touchdown.

 

Falcons Off to a Flyer

As conditions worsened, the Exeter Falcons took to the field for their first competitive fixture against the Plymouth Bolts. If the Bolts were looking for an easy win against a less experienced team, they would come away bitterly disappointed.

As the grass churned, and the rain lashed down, the Falcons leaned on their run game to move the ball as Tom Bridge rumbled for a series of gouging runs. Defensively, the Falcons seemed to have answers for everything the Bolts threw at them as quarterback Luke Vicary was unable to get anything going and the Bolts only touchdown came from a rare Falcons pass that was picked for 6. Crushing runs and short passes helped the Falcons move the chains consistently as they marched their way to a 33-6 victory over the Bolts.

Eager to keep the momentum rolling, the Falcons were quickly back out on the field for their second fixture against the Marjon Lions. Having spectated and prepared for the devastating run attack from the Falcons, this matchup was slightly more balanced as the teams went into the half at 6-6.

As the sun came out and passing became easier, the two teams traded touchdowns, and with two minutes left in the game the Falcons blitzer Travis Osborne put the visitors ahead with a gut wrenching sack for a safety. Having failed to put the game away on offense, the Falcons defense did the business as FS Jay Kewley-Joy took an interception to the house, ending the game 23-13.

 

Uni Teams Disappoint in Debut

In some pretty terrible conditions, the two University teams both finished their first tournament winless. There had been plans to have the two play their University Varsity Match at the end as a part of the Series. However, given the conditions and a number of injuries, it was decided to postpone this fixture.

It’s tough to know how much the weather affected the performances. We would certainly expect the experienced Buccaneers to overcome the elements, but this was certainly not a good start for the two University outfits.

 

 

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TOURNAMENT 2 (Exeter)

In significantly better conditions, GameDay 2 kicked off in Exeter on Saturday, but still with no Sharks in sight. The schedule of the day was significantly reduced – and this time, both the Falcons and Bolts were awarded 1-0 walkover wins before the first game kicked off.

 

Table (after tournament 2)

Team Games Played Wins Draws Loss PTS FOR PTS AG PTS DIF OVR PTS
Exeter Falcons 4 4 0 0 96 53 43 20
Plymouth Buccaneers 4 3 0 1 213 47 166 16
Plym Uni Bolts 4 2 0 2 47 120 -73 12
Marjon Lions 4 0 0 4 34 163 -129 4
Cornish Hammerheads 2 0 0 2 0 2 -2 0

 

Buccaneers Tame Lame Lions

The Buccaneers, with significantly less numbers than in the series opener, continued their somewhat embarrassing onslaught of the Marjon Lions for the second game in a row. The improved conditions seemed to outweigh the reduced numbers as the Bucs jumped out to a sluggish (yeah… that’s right!) 26 point lead in the first half with touchdowns from Sam Smith, Iain Sawczyszak and Adam Lines.

We say sluggish, because it was in the second half that the Bucs really put their foot down. The Lions had no answers to the Buccaneers unusual multi-quarterback offense and struggled to defend the running back option. On the other side of the ball, the Lions quarterback struggles continued as they only managed to move the ball on short passes and running plays, with little to no downfield threat.

The Lions struggled to even make a first down as the Buccaneers piled up a further 42 points in the second half to end the game 68-0.

Falcons Soar to Top of the Table

*** Game of the Week Alert ***

With the Falcons and the Buccaneers tied at the top with two wins apiece, the battle for the top of the table was a game that wouldn’t disappoint – and certainly split the two teams from the rest of the pack in terms of talent.

The two teams first met in a friendly back in June where the National League side came away 47-19 victors with a depleted squad. The Falcons were certainly not going to let that become a recurring nightmare. They seemed to have learnt their lessons, and the two teams put on a show worthy of any league match.

The rookies came out of the traps first, quickly jumping out to a two score lead on the back of a Jay Kewley-Joy pick-six. Not to be outdone, the Buccaneers responded with a score of their own as Iain Sawczyszak miraculously found Adam Lines on a tipped pass for a run in touchdown.

The early momentum seemed to be swinging in favour of the vets as Sam Smith came away with his first pick of the game on the ensuing drive, but the Falcons responded with a pick of their own from CB Luca Lavric that was returned to the house. The teams exchanged touchdowns right before the half as Lavric got his second touchdown on offence, and Smith took his second pick into the end zone. It was Falcons up 27-20 at the half.

The Bucs took the ball in the second half and picked up where they left off in the first. The tide had well and truly turned as Lines found Smith in the back of the end zone. Somewhat shell-shocked, the Falcons offence stalled and the new-boys soon found themselves down two scores when Gareth Hawcroft threw a bullet to Adam Lines in the end zone.

With the clock ticking away, the Falcons had to pull off the seemingly impossible as the Buccaneers defence turned up the heat. Adam Lines was able to sack quarterback Lewis Phillips twice in one drive before a dump-off pass to center Connor Horton went rumbling down the sideline to the house.

With the game so close, the Falcons defense found its previous form to stop the Bucs, and on third down, just inside the Plymouth half, with 14 seconds left in the game, Phillips found a wide open Horton who sprinted his way to the end zone to complete the comeback.

Finishing 39-34 to the Falcons, this game was easily the most exciting of the Series and is certainly going to be a matchup we’ll be watching closely going forward.

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Varsity Victory for Plymouth Bolts

If it hadn’t been for the previous game, this certainly would have been a contender for game of the series so far. The battle for third place was also to be the Plymouth Varsity as the Bolts and Lions went head to head in a pretty exciting game.

It was the Marjon Lions that took the early lead as quarterback Mickey Jake found captain Benjamin Ballard for a touchdown, but it wasn’t long before the Bolts responded as Robert Galliers connected on a stop and go that went to the house.

After another Ballard score, the Bolts continuously shot themselves in the foot with a number of penalties. That helped the Lions stymie the Bolts the rest of the half, and they topped off a successful first 20 minutes with a safety as the teams went into the half Lions 14 – 6 Bolts .

The second half, however, was a different story. Whatever adjustments the Bolts made at half time certainly worked as quarterback Robert Galliers found receiver Faye Doherty for a score, and again adding a two-point conversion to put the Bolts ahead.

The Lions roared back with a couple of their own scores but were ultimately unable to stop the Bolts short passing attack, with Doherty taking in her third. Following a close game, marred by ill-discipline and silly mistakes, the Plymouth Varsity ended Lions 21 Bolts 27. Whilst not pretty at times, if these two teams can cut down on the mistakes and find some rhythm, this will certainly be a matchup we’ll keep an eye on.

 

Where Do We Stand?

So the pack is split. It’s tight at the top between the Bucs and Birds but the gap is widening at the bottom. The Hammerheads will have their work cut out for them should they make it to a GameDay, but there’s still only one win between each of the top three teams.

The next gameday is Saturday November 19 in Cornwall and will be the last before the Christmas break. Just to spice things up some a little we won’t be seeing the series-leading Exeter Falcons, so opportunities abound. The Hammerheads are expected to make their debut, with a chance to come away with 15 points. Equally, the Buccaneers will fancy themselves to go top of the table as they have an opportunity to add another three wins to their tally.

We’ll be expecting a pretty hot contest in the English Riviera as we head into colder climes, and it’ll be very interesting to see how the table looks over Christmas.

Watch this space!

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