Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Steelbowl: Match Report

The Sabres secured their first Steel Bowl victory in five years with a 40-20 win over the Hallam Warriors. The match, played under floodlights, kicked off the Sheffield Varsity 2013, and the 600 in attendance were treated to an entertaining affair.

Both teams knew that a solid start was key, and it was the Sabres who hit the ground running, forcing a three-and-out after James Sharrock’s kickoff left the Warriors deep in their own territory. This left the Sabres in good field position and, after marching the ball into the red zone, David Saul powered the ball home from close range to secure the first score of the game.

On the ensuing drive, the Warriors looked to have found their rhythm, picking up a first down, only to fumble the ball in the backfield, allowing defensive end Sam Stancombe to recover the ball and force the turnover. Two plays into their own drive however, and the Sabres also turned the ball over, a fumbled snap swinging the momentum in Hallam’s favour.

The double-wing offense took full advantage and a pass to a wide open wingback put the Warriors’ first points on the board. A successful outside run took their score to eight, giving them the lead for the first time in the game.

Saul, in at kick returner, seemed to have set the Sabres up in good field position, only for the ball to be knocked loose, giving the Warriors the chance to extend their lead. Seemingly encouraged by their previous success in the air, Hallam moved away from their double-wing formation, but failed to catch the Steel curtain off-guard until, from 4th & long, the Warriors faked a punt and secured a first down. It all went downhill from there though, as multiple penalties left Hallam 4th & very long. On came the Sabres, punishing their opponents’ indiscipline with a 30 yard drive, setting up Saul for his second score of the day.

Undeterred by the potency of their opposing offense, the Warriors put together a drive of their own, marching up the field and adding their second touchdown of the game with an inside run. An unsuccessful two pointer meant the score remained at 14-13.

Starting from the 20 yard line, a darting run from Sam Broughton opened up a deep pass on the following play, Saul connecting with Rob Worboys, setting the Sabres up at 1st & goal. Despite being forced back by a stubborn Hallam defence, a final score was added before the half time break, courtesy of Saul. A successful PAT meant that black and gold lead 20-14 going into half time.

With the restart resulting in a touchback, the Sabres started on their 20 yard line. And it didn’t take long for them to stamp their authority on the second half, Saul running in a 60 yard touchdown, thanks in no small part to excellent downfield blocking from Broughton.

The Steel curtain ensured the home team remained on the front foot, taking just one play to regain the ball for the offense – Gus Robertson forced the fumble, and Matt Gawne reacted quickest to recover the ball. Starting in the red zone, the Sabres always looked likely to convert, and Saul ran in his fifth touchdown of the game, to extend the deficit to three scores.

#15 David Saul had 5 touchdowns
Hallam’s offense refused to lie down though, and only a last ditch tackle from Robertson prevented a 40 yard touchdown. Despite a fumbled toss, the double-wing was not to be denied on this drive, and an outside run gave the Warriors their third score, and a glimmer of hope, the score now 33-20.

The next few drives saw punts from both teams, until a Broughton touchdown all but ended the already slim hopes of the Warriors. Sharrock added his fourth PAT from six attempts to give the Sabres an unassailable 40-20 lead.

With little time left on the clock neither team managed to muster up a meaningful drive, and the full time whistle signified the end of a five year stretch of Hallam domination. The win not only takes the Sabres to the top of the Big North Western Conference, but also gives the University of Sheffield the best possible start to Varsity 2013.

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