MATCH REPORT: Phoenix vs. Sheffield Giants

Rain and wind made for difficult playing conditions as Tamworth came up against a new look and renamed Sheffield Giants side very much in a season of tricky rebuilding after only a collapse by Coventry saved them from relegation last term. They were bolstered however by the offseason signing off former Phoenix and London Warriors Quarterback Brad Thomson who will look to inject some firepower into the Sheffield Offence.

It was pretty much instantly a mountain to climb for the Giants as only 6 plays into the game the ‘Nix had the ball in the end zone courtesy of a 35 yard pass by QB Pat Daley and a excellent leap and catch under double coverage by Elliot Walters who had lined up as a wide-out.

Tamworth had the ball back straight away too after a bold call for the onside kick came good and left Phoenix only 30 yards from the Sheffield goal line. The touchdown was eventually scored by #11 Ben Burslem after the Giants secondary were slow to react and left him wide open to make the catch.

The 'Nix Specials units were causing trouble all game.

The ‘Nix Specials units were causing trouble all game. Photo courtesy of Adelie Hernandez.

Tamworth’s Defence, who were on the field for the first time, didn’t take long to get the ball back to the O, limiting Sheffield to minus yardage on the drive with impressive tackles for loss by Steven Gregory and gang tackles led by #56 Jake Harbon forcing Sheffield to punt without getting a first down.

The rest of the first quarter was dominated by Tamworth but they were unable to get a breakthrough despite #80 Tom Morris breaking 3 tackles for a first down and a nice cut back by new Running Back #28 Ryan Reid.

Electrifying new RB Ryan Reid got his first TD with the Phoenix.

Electrifying new RB Ryan Reid got his first TD with the Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Adelie Hernandez.

Sheffield’s offence were already starting to look desperate with near interceptions by #26 Tom Tandurella and all 4 of the defensive linemen led by #90 Wayne Drew breaking through to the Giants backfield putting the QB under pressure and forcing mistakes.

The rain came down even harder in the second quarter making it difficult for the Phoenix offence to click. Luckily #17 Alex Lenkowski managed to hold on to a slippery ball to get the chains moving on 4th down. He eventually got the touchdown on this drive too, being wide open and calling for the ball he walked in for the score untouched by the rather diminutive Giants defensive backs.

Sheffield’s next two drives were cut rather short and they had only made 22 plays the whole game for a total 10 yards. This was down to the defensive front seven totally dominating the sorry looking Giants offensive line. #31 Will Jepsen and Jake Harbon again making some huge tackles, #52 Dan Shodipo nearly getting a sack in the end zone.

Another short field which was this time taken advantage of in just one play as #24 Marcus Boswell received the 38 yard pass for the touchdown. The offense was unlucky not to get the ball straight back from another onside kick attempt that was bobbled but recovered by Sheffield.

The Giants offence were struggling with the conditions and slips by the running back forced them to punt; the fair catch was called and Tamworth had 30 seconds left in the half to make the 60 yards for the score.

Half the distance was made on the first play as Ben Burslem made the catch on the floor. Pat Daley spiked the ball to stop the clock with 22 seconds remaining. 2nd down brought the score, Tom Morris wide open again… Touchdown. 60 yards, 2 plays, 13 seconds.

35-0 was the halftime score, this means the 2nd half would be under the running clock rule. And it didn’t take long, only 4 plays in fact, for Tamworth to get another touchdown on the board when Ben Burslem again made a good catch for 50 yards that set up Ryan Reid for his first ever Tamworth touchdown when he fought well and stretched over the goal line.

Scoring was finished for the game before the end of the 3rd quarter when Tom Morris got his hat trick, catching coming across the back of the end zone on 3rd down. Sheffield did get some plays going in the 4th quarter when the Phoenix were blooding some newer players but they never really threatened as the ‘Nix defensive continued to dominate until the end of the match.

The only surprising thing about the result was that it wasn’t a larger margin of victory. ‘Nix can be sure of a sterner test on the 18th of June when Scottish powerhouse the East Kilbride Pirates come to Atherstone for a 2:30pm kick off.

MATCH REPORT: Phoenix 51 – 21 Merseyside Nighthawks

Tamworth’s third game of the season saw them on the road again, this time at Merseyside Nighthawks who like the Phoenix were two wins from two this season. The Nighthawks will be looking to improve on their impressive debut season in the Premier Division after they finished 2nd behind Tamworth and lost to eventual Britbowl winners London Warriors in the semi-finals. The ‘Nix, who were making the trip comparatively light on numbers, would have had to have been on their game to avoid their first regular season defeat since 2015.

Any potential nerves were settled early on however, when #5 Elliot Walters caught the 17 yard pass and snuck in at the pylon for the score, after he made two first downs during the drive to get into the red-zone.

RB Elliot Walters breaking away on another run.

RB Elliot Walters breaking away on another run. Photo courtesy of Nick Mortimer.

Merseyside would have keen to grab a quick response and they got down the field despite some excellent pressure from the defensive linemen giving the opposition QB no time whatsoever. The Pressure eventually paid off when defensive talisman, #68 Stephen Gregory, got to the quarterback and forced the fumble that was well recovered in a pile of bodies by Wayne Drew.

Momentum was well with Tamworth now and they doubled their lead soon after despite some sloppy penalties. QB Pat Daley throwing the 53 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver #87 William Hussey who expertly got ahead of the cornerback to catch the ball coming over his shoulder as he sauntered into the endzone.

The defence were on fire and they handed the ball back to the O after only two plays when the Nighthawks QB rifled a sloppy pass way over his receivers head which was well picked off by #19 Hilton Forsyth who managed to grab the ball despite being unsighted and with minimal reaction time. With such a short field it wasn’t long before Tamworth had their third score of the 1st quarter, Marcus Boswell getting his name on the score sheet with the 12 yard catch.

Merseyside did get points on the board in their first drive of the second quarter however; it took some hard work and some trickery to do so with a fake punt rescuing the drive at its midway point. The quarterback kept the ball for the 1-yard run to the endzone.

The second quarter ended up turning into a shootout when Tamworth scored again, this time after a good return on the kick off by #25 Deji Ali, putting the offense past the halfway line and Marcus Boswell catching for his second touchdown of the game. The Nighthawks had an almost instant reply with an absolute peach of a pass to a wide-open receiver, going from deep in their own half to the goal line. The ball was punched in on the next play and that completed the scoring for the half leaving the score at 27-14.

First blood of the second half was drawn by the Nighthawks, which left them within touching distance for the first time in the game but this was to be the first and last time they came close to the Phoenix as it was to be the last time they crossed the goal line.

The Phoenix began to turn the screw. That man Elliot Walters again marching the offense forward with a nice 38 yard run helped by some excellent downfield blocking. We were still yet to have a rushing touchdown however as #89 Will Hussey did well to hold on to the 6-yard touchdown pass.

The defence came very close to getting their own points onto the scoreboard when #44 Chris Thacker, on a blitz, waltzed through the Merseyside offensive line and hit the QB who fumbled the ball. Defensive End Wayne Drew picked the ball up and made it to the 4-yard line before being brought down. The first rushing TD of the game was scored by #9 Adam Hope.

It was all about Walters and Daley for the final touchdown of the game. The former getting into opposition territory with a nice 25-yard run only stopped by the last man forcing him out of bounds or it would have been to the house. Pat Daley threw successive long passes for a combined 50 yards to put the ball on the goal line. Elliot Walters fittingly getting the points for a well earned touchdown.

Completing the scoring late in the game and grabbing the second “50 Burger” of the season was #17 Alex Lenkowski with the short field goal.

The eventual score line of 51-21 was a fair reflection on the game, a game where the linemen reigned supreme, the offensive men giving the backs all the room they needed, creating channels, and the defensive front 7 constantly pressuring the opposition QB into making costly mistakes.

The defensive front were dominant throughout the day.

The ‘Nix defensive front swarm the Nighthawks QB. Photo courtesy of Kevin Jefferson.

Tamworth, who now stand clear at the top of the Premier North at 3-0, welcome a new look, and bottom of the table, Sheffield Giants side to Atherstone on June 4th for a 14:30pm kick off.

Written by Dan Myatt.             

MATCH REPORT: Phoenix 27 – 20 Edinburgh Wolves

Game two of the season saw Tamworth head north of the border to face Premier Division new boys Edinburgh Wolves, a side that will be confident of testing the Phoenix defence after an impressive result at Sheffield and a missed extra point away from beating fellow Scotsmen East Kilbride in week 1.

And indeed the defence was well tested when in the opening drive the Wolves QB marched the Edinburgh offence slowly but surely up the field with precision short passes, eventually scoring the opening touchdown with a 9 yard QB keeper. The point after try was well blocked by #34 Lewis Freeman coming in from the side.

The pressure was on the Tamworth offence to respond, and they were on the scoreboard quickly after an excellent 50-yard run by RB Elliot Walters and a nice 20-yard catch by WR James Hossack put the ‘Nix on the Edinburgh goal line. The touchdown eventually being punched in on 4th down by #25 Deji Ali.

7-6 to Tamworth is how the first quarter would end, the sides exchanging possession after some good work but both unable to find a way through the defences.

The Phoenix got their second score early in the second quarter with some excellent running by Walters & Ali all being made possible by the offensive line getting some good push against the Wolves defensive front. Marcus Boswell catching the 1-yard touchdown pass.

Soon the Tamworth offence grabbed their third TD, this time entirely through the air with 94 passing yards in just 5 attempts by QB Pat Daley who supplied two consecutive 30+ yard passes caught by Will Hussey and Ben Burslem, the latter getting the final catch of the drive for the score.

With half time fast approaching Edinburgh needed something to keep them within touching distance, and they managed to get what they needed after the impressive Wolves QB got them down to the goal line in double quick time and then tossed the ball to the running back for the touchdown to make the score 20-13 at the half.

The second half started with some stern defence from both sides, Tamworth quickly forcing the Wolves 3 & out, and them replying with a fumble recovery. Fans of defensive football will have loved what they were seeing with some proper battles in the trenches taking place and good drives by both offenses being stopped. That is until a cheeky pass over the top outfoxed the Phoenix defence, tying the game at 20 and making for a grandstand 4th quarter.

The promise of an exciting last 15 minutes was granted when the Phoenix quickly got themselves into the red zone and onto the 1 yard line after a 90 yard drive, but the Edinburgh defence remained strong and forced the turnover on downs.

The Tamworth defence were more than a match however and quickly handed the ball back to the offence and this time they got the points they desperately needed with the clock running out. Excellent protection when it mattered let Pat Daley do what he does and stellar work by the backs resulted in the 3-yard rush by Walters for the touchdown. Edinburgh had little time for a response and couldn’t crack the Phoenix D, not converting on 4th down allowing the offence to kneel out the game for the win. Final score 27-20.

A hard fought victory for Tamworth shows that Edinburgh more than belong in this division and they can certainly hold their own amongst the eilte in the league. This win leaves Phoenix joint top of the division with the Merseyside Nighthawks which are the opponent for the ‘Nix next Sunday, and with two close contests between the sides last year it promises to be another cracker of a game.

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Match report by Dan Myatt.