UoNAF (University of Nottingham American Football) descended upon the sun kissed Harvey Hadden Athletics Stadium on 13th May to do battle in the penultimate day of the Nottingham Varsity Series 2017.
The match was a showcase of two of the top university American Football teams in the U.K, as the game ended 25-12 to NTU (Nottingham Trent University) and left the overall Varsity score at 11-8.
UoN were hoping for similar scenes to their 19-7 victory against Trent in last year’s match, which saw them win the Varsity American Football for the first time in the club’s history, and that win certainly has proved a catalyst for one of the most in-form and fast-growing clubs at this university.
The Nottingham Outlaws went into the match in a rich vein of league form, as well as having last year’s 19-7 varsity win under their belts. It’s been 8 out of 8 victories for UoNAF this year in the BUAFL (British Universities American Football League), their progress only halted in a 28-27 semi-final play-off defeat against Leeds Beckett last term.
The side accumulated a +302 points difference as well, and had conceded just one touchdown all season before their semi-final match. Trent Renegades, whilst being in the league above, had lost all eight of their matches prior to Saturday’s meeting.
The new battleground
The 1,600 all-seater Harvey Hadden, home of Nottingham’s American Football team the Nottingham Caesars, played host to the Renegades and the Outlaws on a fine spring evening. The venue is a change from Lady Bay Stadium where the fixture was hosted previously. The change meant an increased capacity and a heightened noise level for the Green and Gold and the Trent Army.
Trent asserted their pressure right from the off, and took the early lead in the first quarter with a well worked touchdown from running back Joe Peers, as the Renegades gained the yardage and clinically found holes in the green and gold’s defensive line.
Trent were on top for the majority of the opening exchanges, with their hard running working effectively to set up deep throwing game. Trent’s David Izinyon, who was utilised as a running back, posed a particular danger to the University of Nottingham D line.
A fourth down and punt by wide receiver Tom Morris put Trent under severe pressure but it didn’t amount to anything and the first quarter ended with Trent in the ascendancy.
First quarter UoN 0-6 NTU
Trent reasserted their dominance early in the second quarter despite a missed field goal after UoN called a time out. Moments later Natal Melero intercepted a loose Green and Gold pass and touched down for the Trent Army. The 2 point converion was not completed, but Trent nevertheless held a healthy lead, 0-12 to NTU.
The University of Nottingham responded quickly however and quarter back Sam Wright made a 40 yard pass to find American wide receiver Peter Adams in the end zone which gave the Outlaws a glimmer of hope, the score 6-12.
Tom Morris almost got UoN on level terms as he looked set to catch the ball in the end zone but the ball was plucked from the air out of nowhere by Trent’s cornerback.
Half Time: UoN 6-12 NTU
The third quarter saw plenty if endeavour but few results as Trent looked to extend their lead, while UoN looked to claw their way back into the encounter.
Sam Wright found wide receiver Jacob Cheatham, and he broke the Trent line yet was tackled on Trent’s 35-yard line. Trent pushed UoN back to 3rd and 22 on the half way line. In the next play Trent quarterback Callum Doherty went long and the pass fell just short of the wide receiver. Stalemate as temperatures between the lines reached fever pitch.
Third Quarter: UoN 6-12 NTU
UoNAF Head Coach Phil Wood after the game said, “the offensive team made two critical errors to hand Trent two touchdowns with poor passes.”
He continued: “There were moments where we had chances to claw it back and if they had been more precise with their passes in the final 20 yards then they would have done that. Despite the loss the players gave everything and they’ve had an unbelievable season.”
UoNAF President Sam Noakes said post-match: “I thought it was a really close fought game and although as a team we are naturally gutted to have lost the boys gave it their all right to the end. Defensively it’s as good a performance we’ve put in for a long time and in his last game for the club Sam Frost was an outstanding leader and will field had a massive game as well.
“There are lots of positives we can take and although it was a disappointing loss it’s not taken the shine off what has otherwise been a fantastic and record breaking season for the club. I’d also like to thank all the players and coaches for their outstanding commitment throughout the season and I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of people to have spent this season with.”
Line backer Ed Hoyle said that ‘it was fantastic too see such a great turnout, some of these boys will never have played or will get to play in such a big crowd. We really appreciate the support’.
With both teams being in the same league next season, Varsity will be even more tense. Let’s hope that UoNAF can get the result that their form and endeavour deserved next time around, but nevertheless it was a fantastic varsity performance on the day from the Green and Gold.
Joe Tanner & Amar Mehta
Images courtesy of Rhys Thomas via Impact Images
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