BAFA

The BAFA National League 2018 season concludes

In the finale to the Britball season, two games were played last weekend that saw the Premiership Britball XXXXII and the Division 1 final both featured.

The Premiership battle was fought between the reigning champions Tamworth Phoenix and the London Warriors who until last year made a habit of appearing in the contest that sees the two best teams in the UK face each other.

Last year, the Warriors were knocked out in the semi-final by the Phoenix, but it would be professional pride that motivated the London team and not any sense of vengeance in an organisation that has a powerful football model.

London controlled the game from an opening series that saw Tamworth held to three and out and forced to punt. Two plays into London’s possession, Raymond Sobowale swept left into the endzone for an 18-yards touchdown.

On their next series, London doubled their lead when quarterback Nick Jacquet found a wide-open Phil Newport for a 59-yard touchdown catch. While the Warriors were moving the chains, did we see the first ever player ejection by VAR? Although no flag was thrown, Tamworth’s #24 was ejected for a late hit after the play had been reviewed by the video referee.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tamworth’s #24 returned the kick 96 yards weaving his way through the London special team for the Phoenix first score. When London were forced to punt on their next possession, a high snap saw Tamworth start with a short field and Patrick Daley make brief work to tie the game 14-14. On the run while avoiding the pass rush, Daley threw to James Hossack who pulled in the touchdown.

When Tamworth fumbled a punt return at the beginning of the second quarter, the turnover gave the Warriors a short field and saw London’s ground profit with Dwayne Watson hitting pay dirt.

The high scoring game saw London’s Sobowale add to his team’s lead when he bounced of his tacklers to go 35 yards for the score with three and a half minutes remaining in the half. The fans were watching a touchdown feast that continued with both teams adding to their points total before halftime.

Led by some great blocking, Tamworth’s Daley danced his way into the endzone for a 17-yd Tamworth touchdown before London’s Watson exploded for a 52-yard scoring run to increase the Warriors lead to 34-21.

A 33-yard touchdown pass to the Warriors’ Phil Newport opened the scoring in the third quarter before turnovers began to influence the game. Tamworth seized an opportunity when London fumbled, and Daley produced an amazing 33-yd touchdown pass to #19.

Watson made his second score of the day as the Warriors approached the half century mark before the Phoenix finished the scoring on the day that saw London become the national Champions for the fifth time with their 48-34 victory.

Division One final

In the Division one final between the Leicester Falcons and the Kent Exiles, the Falcons were heavily favoured because of their unbeaten record, but it was the Exiles who scored first after they recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

The Falcons hit back but failed on the extra point, so the Exiles were holding a slender lead they extended with the next scoring opportunity. Their extra point attempt was blocked, and Leicester ran it back for a rare two-point score for a defending team.

Leicester took their first lead of the game with five minutes remaining in the half. In a game that saw both offenses capable of scoring, the Exiles responded with a score of their own, only to see the Falcons hit straight back to hold a 24-21 halftime lead.

A lengthy injury delayed the game at the beginning of the third quarter before the Falcons added a touchdown to give them a ten-point lead. The ejection of a Leicester offensive lineman for a late hit didn’t slow down their offense and the Falcons added another score before the Exiles wrapped up the scoring with a late touchdown.

With their 36-29 victory, the Leicester Falcons were crowned Division 1 champions.

Division Two final

The Division 2 Final was fought between two teams that had met four times in the past two regular seasons. The Portsmouth Dreadnoughts held a 3-1 edge over the Hertfordshire Cheetahs, but the Cheetahs took this year’s SFC 2 South title by conceding less points in the head-to-head tie breaker.

The Cheetahs looked determined from their first snap when they scored with a play-action pass down the left side line that saw the Dreadnoughts defense left chasing their dreams.

From that point, Hertfordshire appeared in control and made their presence felt with some strong offense and a resilient defense. Although taking just a 6-0 lead into the locker room at half time, the Cheetahs were always on top and extended their margin with an interception returned for a touchdown at the beginning of the third quarter.

When the Cheetahs played the Dreadnoughts at Portsmouth during the season, their predictable up the middle on the ground offense hit a wall that was the Portsmouth defense. Hertfordshire’s game plan in this final was to play intelligent football combining an effective rushing game with a passing game to keep it honest.

Hertfordshire’s defense also made its contribution and as a team the Cheetahs proved they were the best on the day. Portsmouth were worthy combatants but came up short while the Cheetahs were better prepared.

In the second half, the Cheetahs extended their lead as they continued to assert their authority. Portsmouth scored a consolation touchdown, but the Cheetahs deserved their 24-7 victory by dominating a game that confirmed them as both Division 2 and SFC 2 South champions.

The Cheetahs first touchdown and the Dreadnoughts touchdown image courtesy of @SteelUK.

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