South Wales Warriors Denied After Sinful Errors Let In Saints
American Football BAFA Division One Central
South Wales Warriors 6, Oxford Saints 13
By Twm Owen
A dramatic touchdown with 59 seconds left to play was too little too late to prevent the South Wales Warriors falling to a second successive defeat.
Running back Stewart Bicker hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from second string quarterback Max Ayoul to finally put the Warriors on the scoreboard during a frustrating British American Football Association (BAFA) National League Division One Central fixture.
But when the Oxford Saints recovered the Warriors’ onside kick any hope the home side had of pulling off what had looked like a quick fire comeback was finally extinguished.
Saints head coach Andrew Day admitted his side, last year’s division two (south) champions, had been lucky to claim the victory following a Warriors performance marred by simple mistakes.
Day said recording a first victory, after losing their opener 35-8 to the Warriors next opponents the Sussex Thunder, was “very, very important” for the newly promoted side but added: “I thought to be honest we were lucky to win.
“South Wales dropped quite a few passes and on another day they could have easily won it. I’m grateful to get out of here with a victory.”
That Day is the second visiting coach to admit relief at leaving Llanharan with a narrow victory, after the hosts lost their home opener in the dying seconds to the Ouse Valley Eagles, will be no consolation to Warriors head coach Geraint Roberts.
“We didn’t execute. We thought we had a game plan, it’s just the players didn’t execute,” said Roberts who admitted he could offer no explanation for his teams catalogue of errors that included fumbles and a certain touchdown pass dropped. An offensive pass interference penalty also chalked off a third quarter touchdown for the Welshmen.
The Saints showed the Warriors how to operate a running offense with second string QB Marcus Alphonso , starting in place of Ben
Denton, placed firmly under center to hand the ball to impressive RB James Walter who churned up the yards at the Dairy Field.
The 16 stone back, who boasts an impressive show reel of You Tube clips, spun out of several tackles in a two touchdown performance that the Warriors just couldn’t defend.
“We knew what he (Walter) had coming in to the game and everyone has seen his highlights and he did well in the Great Britain trials last year. But we tackled poorly,” said Roberts.
The Cheltenham native, who was selected for the GB Lions national side last autumn, carried the Saints deep into the Warriors territory to start the second quarter.
Tight End Richard Bloomer dropped a pass at the goal line on a second down but on third down Walter rushed to the Warriors six yard line for a first down. He then carried to the two yard line. From there it was inevitable Walter would cap off the drive with the game’s first touchdown. Kicker Dean Fuller added the extra point after a deflection at the line of scrimmage helped push it over the cross bar.
QB Dean Jackson responded for the Warriors finding receivers Nick Keyse and Robert Jones with deep passes before Bicker dropped a perfect pass, from 26 yards, as he strode into Saints end zone unhindered. The Warriors conceded possession when Jones dropped a pass on fourth down.
Before the half-time whistle the Saints attempted two field goals, from 25 and 31 yards, but both kicks sailed wide.
In the third quarter it was the returning Keyse, who’d been out of action since midway through last season, who struggled to keep hold of Jackson’s passes. A possible long range TD slipped through the normally dependable receiver’s fingers and when Jackson ran his team into the red zone another potential score was lost as a wide open Keyse didn’t know which way to look when Jackson floated a pass over his shoulder on third down. Nate Webb attempted a field goal from 20 yards but his kick was wide.
Keyes would then see a 13 yard TD catch, from Jackson, called back after an offensive pass interference penalty that left the Saints side line unhappy at what they thought was dangerous play and the Warriors angered when the officials couldn’t identify the offending player.
Walter kept the Saints moving downfield and early in the fourth quarter crossed for his second TD, from five yards out, to stretch the lead to 13. The visitors’ attempt to fool the Warriors into thinking they were kicking the extra point failed when holder Ian Hiscock got up from his knees to collect the snap but under pressure was unable to connect with his receiver on a screen pass to his left.
With two minutes remaining second choice QB Ayoul, who’d replaced Jackson midway through the fourth quarter, hit Keys for a number of completions to move the Warriors downfield while a penalty moved them into the Saints half.
Ayoul again connected with Keyes for a nine yard gain and with just 59 seconds remaining the Frenchman looked right and found Bicker sprinting to the end zone. This time Bicker made sure to take his chance and finally get the Warriors on the scoreboard. Nate Webb saw his conversion attempt hit the left upright to leave the score at 6-13.
To win the Warriors would need to recover their onside kick, score a touchdown and add a two point conversion. But Misha Brooks recovered the ensuing kick-off for the Saints to ensure there would be no more late drama.