13th May 2001 - Cheshire Romans 13-12 Nottingham Caesars

Report supplied by Cheshire Romans

Both teams looked forward to this clash as a chance to open their league account, and 60 minutes of hard football later, 1 point was all that could separate them.

The Caesars appeared with a small squad, but came ready to play, Edwards picking off Scott Irwin on the first drive deep in Roman territory. The Chester defense entered the fray with a bang, forcing a three and out and setting a hard-hitting precedent for the rest of the afternoon. On Cheshire’s next drive, Nottingham again picked off a pass, Edwards returning his second INT 20 yds into the paint. He then appeared at TB for the conversion, but was buried by ILB Steve Toye, to leave the score at 0-6.

This seemed to wake the Roman O, and they began to generate positive yardage with the contrasting running styles of Stu Archer and Guy Bingham. Archer darted for a first down, and Bingham punched up the middle for another, and Chester moved into Caesar territory. The Notts defense stiffened, filling the box with 8 men, and the Roman passing D came close to breaking them down, but was stopped.

The remainder of the first half became an attritional battle, with both offenses making small amounts of yardage, but unable to maintain a drive. The interior of the Chester D getting to grips with the inside running attack of the Caesars; DT’s Biscuit Capper and Marbles Blakemore (7solos, D MVP), supported by ILB’s Steve Toye (5 solos 4 assists) and Tony Aldersley forcing several 3rd and long situations.

Chester came close to tying the game up as half time approached, Irwin firing a completion to Dave McHugh, then Bingham barrelled up field on a screen that ended up yards from the goal line. Unable to force the ball over, and following a sack, Cheshire attempted a FG, but Phil Rowe’s kick went inches right to maintain the Caesars’ lead.

Nottingham opened the second half with a personnel change, RB/WR Thompson entering the game. His entrance had an almost immediate effect. On 3rd and long inside the 20, he pulled in a perfect spiral over near perfect coverage and took it 81 yds to extend the lead. Again the Caesars went for two, and the FB appeared to have broken the plane, but crucially lost the ball at the one, where Adam Yates pounced for the recovery.

0-13 down, the Roman O stirred, Archer and Bingham pounding into Notts territory. After a powerful 8yd surge from Bingham, Archer raced off tackle behind Brian Buckley and John Anderson, then cut to the sideline and outran the D for an electrifying 38 yd score. Rowe kicked a solid PAT to make it 7-13. The Caesars responded with a kick return to half way, and looked menacing, until FS Mike Cosgrove pounced, diving in front of the TE for an interception. Unable to execute, the Romans punted again, and the Caesars moved past midfield. On 3rd down at the 40, the Notts QB fired a bullet downfield. Unable to field it, the Caesar WR batted the ball upwards, where Jason Wilcock raced under it and set off downfield. Only excellent pursuit stopped him from taking it back all the way. Defense again came to the fore to end the quarter.

Trailing 7-13 at the start of the 4th, the Romans knew that a single TD, and the reliable boot of Rowe, could prove enough to win the game. O coordinator Gaz Fuller asked the D for one more turnover, and deep in their half with the Caesars threatening, they delivered. Another perfect pass to Thompson brought the ball inside the twenty, where the Notts’ QB, succumbing to constant pressure from Lee Rose and Simon Wainwright, forced a pass into the end zone, where Dale Walsh stepped in front at the goal line and raced up field. Again, desperate pursuit stopped him scoring after a 34 yd scamper. With barely four minutes remaining, the Romans knew it was time to do or die. Behind Brett Metcalfe and Will Sargent, the O pounded downfield. As the gun approached, tempers became frayed in the afternoon heat, and the Caesars were assessed for two 15 yd penalties which moved the Romans closer to their goal. Finally, the Notts’ D broke, and offensive MVP Stu Archer twisted in from the 4 for the go ahead score. The 2pt conversion failed, and the Caesars knew a FG would be enough.

The Caesars QB returned the kickoff well past midfield, giving his offense new hope. A quick dive brought them inside the thirty, and the roman D knew it had to step up again to preserve the victory. An incomplete pass on 1st down was followed by a sack by Toye and Capper on 2nd down, leaving the Caesars long yardage to convert. On 3rd down, Rose and Aldersley combined to knock away a deep corner, and with the game on the line, a speculative bomb into the end zone was safely defused by Wainwright to give Coach Nick Clifford his first league victory of the year.

The game was a hard fought and sporting encounter, played in hot and testing conditions. Both sides will be looking forward to the return fixture in Nottingham on the 28th of May.