The LSAFC start the season strong, winning their first game away against Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) Warriors, 30-14. Despite a rookie-riddled team Loughborough managed to pull back their shaky start to dominate the second quarter. Although the second half saw their vigour dwindle, they managed to hold on to the lead and take their first victory.
Sheffield won the toss and kicked off the game with nervous enthusiasm. It took both teams a while to settle as early plays were full of incomplete passes and missed opportunities as the novice players took their time to find their feet. However the pace quickly picked up as the Sheffield offensive put pressure on the away side who slowly found their confidence and managed to put real force to their drives. Despite a fifteen yard penalty, Loughborough’s offense grew in strength with #88 George Cox and #14 James Draper doing some good running. An SHU interception turned over the ball in the Loughborough half, but #25 Ben Hoban was quick off the mark and broke up following SHU pass. Both teams struggled and drives were left fruitless as neither team managed to push the ball over the line and by the end of the first quarter the scoreboard was untouched.
The second quarter started with Loughborough in defence and a fumble recovery by #96 Ollie Lee at the 30 yard line kept Loughborough in play. #17 Birkan Parlar made an impressive run down the left flank and it took an SHU swarm to take him down and stop his yard gain at 30.
Sheffield’s offensive line began to crack and the Student’s took advantage by returning a play back into the SHU half with a punt on the 4th down taking the line of scrimmage to just over the 30 yard line. Loughborough’s next offensive play finally came good as a clean pass from quarterback #6 Aaron Butler to #88 George Cox saw the ball pushed over the line and LSAFC score their first touchdown. The away team successfully went for two and stepped into the lead, 8-0.
Rumbled by the re-energised Loughborough side, the Warriors dropped their game, passes were fumbled and play was broken up again by LSAFC’s #25 Ben Hoban on fourth down. SHU’s defence splintered further leaving their middle open and free for Loughborough to run clear into the endzone for their second touchdown. Combined with a PAT Loughborough added another seven points to board taking the score to 15-0. The Students wasted no time in pushing the Warriors’ defence hard again and their next play saw #85 Alastair Shale sail over the line and earn Loughborough another six points. With a kick for PAT splitting the uprights, the extra point took Loughborough’s lead to 22-0.
A surge in the Sheffield offensive deep into the second quarter caught the Loughborough defence by surprise. They were unable to stop the sudden SHU rush down the line clean into to the endzone, giving the home side their first touchdown. After a failed two-point conversion they only managed to put six on the board taking the score to 22-6 at the end of the first half.
Half time play resumed with a re-energized #45 Pete Davies recovering a fumble and rushing over the line to score Loughborough’s fourth touchdown minutes into the third quarter. With another successful play for two moving the score to 30-6. However, Loughborough’s dominance faded, as the defensive line slackened and SHU’s #11 made a good run over the 10 yard line, seeing an opening in
the middle and finding the endzone, scoring the Warriors’ second touchdown. The home side’s delayed retaliation closed the gap and took to score to 30-14.
Fortunately for Loughborough SHU’s momentum was short lived. Another play from the Warriors was broken up by #25 Ben Hoban, and despite a big connection of 30 yards down the left from a #6 Aaron Butler pass to #84 Jordan Mathews, Loughborough failed to find the endzone. Sheffield couldn’t push past Loughborough’s defence but with Loughborough struggling to keep up the pace and the home side’s #11 causing the defensive, it was a relief when #20 Lewis Freeman intercepted an SHU play and made their efforts futile.
The remaining half quarter found both sides deflated and despite LSAFC managing to turnover the ball they struggled to make any more progress. Against an ever tiring Warriors side, their defence held for the rest of the game, and despite a strong run from quarterback Aaron Butler, play ended at the 35 yard line with Loughborough taking their first win, final score: 30-14.
After the match, Head Coach Paul Sherratt was pleased with the day’s outcome, especially due to the earlier scheduled first season game putting additional pressure on the rookie players. Despite a deserving win under the belt he noted that there’s a lot of work to do as the team progresses into the season.
“First week games are usually a bit questionable in terms of how well we execute, because obviously people are new. We’ve had a week less this year so that’s been more challenging but I think on the whole the first half was really, really pleasing, lots of good stuff, lots of rookies making plays. I think second half we kind of took our eye off the ball, and maybe backed off a bit. So I think when going forward we’ve got to play for four quarters.”
Watch LSAFC next in action on Sunday 8th November where they play the University of Stirling in their first home game of the season, KO 12 Noon on the Holywell Rubber Crumb.
Image credit: Drew Smith