The first game of the New Year left the Loughborough Students with a sour taste in their mouths as they lost out again to local rivals the Derby Braves, 6-2.

Thawing out after the Christmas holidays and fighting the stress of the January exams, the Loughborough side couldn’t catch a break against Derby, a team they’ve never lost to prior to this season. Despite the measly score, there was plenty of promise shown and several performances to be applauded. Undoubtedly amongst the highlights of the game was #20 Lewis Freeman’s zealous tackles which rather too effectively put a stop to the Derby side on numerous occasions. Sunday also saw the return of quarter-back Aaron Butler to the field, who made an impressive comeback after his wrist injury back in early November.

With the typically British grey clouds shrouding the game’s kick-off, the LSAFC’s purple and while clothing was in stark contract as they won the toss and choose to receive. Good running from the likes of Birkan Palar and Dan Holmes saw the Students score a safety and be the first to get points on the board, 0-2. Alastair Shale did well to hinder a Derby play but after a long drive the Braves responded with a touchdown. With the PAT no good, the score stood 6-2.

LSAFC found themselves three and out with their punt team taking to the field on more than one occasion during the remainder of the first half. Despite a great effort, particularly from James Draper there wasn’t another dent to the board.

Halftime allowed a chance for both teams to up the tempo, however the third quarter saw a lull in pace and more short drives ended in punts. This three and out pseudo game of tennis was only interrupted by the great work of Dan Holmes and Lewis Freeman who struck back again with a brutish tackle that shook the Derby offence.

The latter minutes of Q4 found LSAFC finally building momentum, spearheaded by a great throw from Butler to Jordan Mathews. Huge efforts in the remaining minutes saw Loughborough deep into the red zone with the game coming down to the wire. There were only seconds on the clock with Loughborough needing to gain two yards to get the touchdown and clinch the home win. The excitement didn’t last for the Students who lacked a few ingredients for their movie-like 11th hour victory. Alas it was not meant to be, and many of the Loughborough side were left slighted by the referee’s call. The final score ended 6-2 to Derby.

This unfortunately puts more pressure on the LSAFC team to take a win in their final games of the season in order to stay in the league’s top four. Head coach Paul Sherratt shared his thoughts:

“I think it was a classic first game back after Christmas. It’s difficult this year as we’ve got a game during exam period which we wouldn’t normally have. So we’ve had people missing training and it’s been difficult.

“Weather has been rubbish. We missed last Sunday (training) because of the snow. So a lot of challenges, we didn’t play well. We did well on defence, special teams was good. But we didn’t execute on offence which is really down to practise time and getting it right.

“We’ve got a couple of weeks to get ready for homecoming which will be a big deal, it’s against Durham, so yeah we’ve just got to pick ourselves up and go after it really. That’s the plan.”

LSAFC are next in action against Durham for their Homecoming game on Saturday 6th February. Kick-off is at 12pm on the Holywell Rubber Crumb.

Amber Thiara


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