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.
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.
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.