by Rob Amor
The Bulls faced Coventry Jets for the first time since 2008, with the club having never beaten their local rivals.
Both teams were on losing streaks following opening game successes (Bulls losing 3 and the Jets losing 4 in a row respectively), and one team would be putting an end to the poor form.
After receiving the opening kick-off, the Bulls offense suffered a short drive before punting in to Jets territory. Former Bulls Youth player, Fraser Oliver, led his offense on to the field and Coventry immediately opened the scoring.
A deep pass down the right sideline from quarterback Oliver saw the Jets receiver (Noach Ben-Haim) beat defensive back Jack Pemberton and run the ball in to the end zone for an approximate 50 yard score. With the PAT successful, the Jets were 7-0 up early.Unfortunately for the Bulls, the first play on their next drive was an interception from QB Rich Wilde – playing despite suffering an injury in his throwing hand against Yorkshire Rams a week earlier – which was returned by the Elliot Strong for another touchdown. The PAT was once again successful, and the Jets had already raced in to an early 14 point lead.
After running back Nick Smith coughed the ball up on another Bulls drive, Jets QB Oliver once again found his receiver in the endzone. Despite the ball hitting the floor, the referees awarded Jets the score – much to the dismay of the Bulls’ sideline. The Jets attempted a 2pt conversion but were unsuccessful.
The Jets offense were not always in control however, as the Bulls defensive line repeatedly found their way in to the back field, sacking Oliver repeatedly through the game. Midway through the second quarter, RB Damien Browne fumbled the ball after breaking past the line of scrimmage to end another drive.
A passionate half time team talk from Head Coach Ian Hill saw a small turn around in fortunes during the second half, with the defense setting the tone early. Rookie DB Joe Lucas nailed the Jets returner on the opening kick-off, and DB Rich Penwright claiming two interceptions (one scrubbed off for pass interference) as well as a perfectly timed hit to dislodge the ball from a Jets receiver as soon as the pig skin touched his fingers.
The Bulls offense also came out fighting in the second half, with two long drives courtesy of some great running by running back Marcus Rey and fullback Mark Pagett. But as was the case against Doncaster Mustangs in the second game of the season, the Bulls were unable to capitalise and punch the ball in for a score and attempted comeback, with one drive ending in another QB Wilde interception – this time in the endzone.
With much of the clock consumed by the ground game in the third quarter, the two sides both struggled offensively going in to the 4th, exchanging short drives before the game ended 20-0.
Save for 4 or 5 deep passes that connected, the defense smothered and contained the Jets offense, with the defensive line – Lee Macken, Anton Chisholm, Andrew Thomas and Mark Mallory – in dominating form. But mental errors on both sides of the ball ultimately cost the Bulls in the first local rivalry game of 2013.
The Bulls now have a fortnight to make adjustments before travelling to Coventry on 30th June, looking to kick-start their campaign as they head in to the second half of the season.