London Blitz B lost in heart-breaking fashion on Sunday – falling to a narrow 7-6 defeat away at Cambridgeshire Cats
In truth, the Blitz dominated both possession and field position and will be wondering how they managed to lose the game.
The game kicked off in blustery and cold conditions with the Cats receiving the ball first. A long run took the ball into the Blitz redzone, but after that the Cats could not move the ball any further. The ensuing Field Goal attempt sailed wide right, keeping the score at 0-0.
The first quarter was dominated by both defences, with both teams struggling to get their run game going. The Cats power run game was dealt with impressively by the Blitz defence, whilst the Cats D line was dominant in the first quarter, getting into the backfield with regularity and stuffing the Blitz running backs in the backfield.
The Blitz began to get their passing game going late in the quarter with Andy Tierney and Yaw Ow-Ny making good grabs down the touchline, but the Blitz were unable to get into scoring position and the quarter ended 0-0.
The second quarter began brighter for the visitors, with Francis Stewart ripping off a 30 yard run. This was followed a few plays later by a pass from QB Chris Walker to Phil Robinson along the right sideline which he took into the endzone for the first score of the day. A high snap meant that the Blitz were unable to add the extra point, which would come back to haunt them.
For the rest of the quarter, the Blitz were dominant – winning the battle of field position as the game was played almost exclusively in the Cats half. The Blitz defence was smothering and the complete shut down of the Cats running game combined with key drops by Cambridge receivers, led to multiple 3-and-outs.
The Blitz could not convert their field position into points however, and a lack of awareness of the time left on the clock led to the Blitz stranded at the Cats one yard line when the referee blew half time. A frustrating end to the half, to come away with no points after the Blitz drove the ball well into scoring position.
The second half began in the same fashion as both defences dominated the line of scrimmage. The Cats D line appeared re-invigorated after the break and Blitz QB Chris Walker had to scramble out of the pocket often to find time to get his throws off as the D line broke into the backfield at regular intervals.
The Blitz defence continued to hold their own and stifle the Cats offence, but after numerous exchanges of punts, the Cats began a drive in Blitz territory after a turnover early in the 4th quarter and managed to drive down inside the Blitz 15. The defence was fooled by a QB read option and the QB ran into the end zone untouched to tie the game. A successful extra point meant that the Cats took the lead.
After a quarter and a half of spluttering offences on both sides, the Blitz took the field knowing that they had to score again to win the game, and they finally began to move the ball.
Unfortunately, a costly personal foul penalty and a fumble ended 2 consecutive promising drives at the half way line, just as the Blitz were beginning to get some momentum going. Cambridge was then able to run the clock down to 42 secs before giving the ball back to the Blitz on the 25 yard line.
Driving 75 yards with two time outs and only 42 seconds left was always going to be tough, but Chris Walker got his passing offence going - completing 4 straight passes to bring the Blitz inside the Cambridge 30 yard line with no time outs and less than 10 seconds remaining.
On the last play however, Andrew Tierney made a catch over the middle and was tackled in bounds at the 15 yard line and time expired.
A tough loss to take for the Blitz after dominating time of possession and having the defence play so well for the majority of the game. However, mental errors and a lack of discipline at key points ultimately cost them the game. Credit must go to the Cats defence for keeping their side in the game during the first 3 quarters, whilst also keeping their composure far better at key times in the 4th quarter.
Next up the Blitz B host local rivals the London Hornets in what promises to be one of the best and most interesting fixtures of the season. The teams split the series 1-1 last year, with both teams winning on the road. However, the Hornets are coming off a 2-win streak, after beating Essex 48 - 9, so this could easily go either way.
Match report by Ben Scarisbrick
Photo (c) Cambridgeshire Cats