22nd July 2001 - Birmingham Bulls 7-14 London O's

Birmingham and London fought out a tight defensive battle that was in marked contrast to their free-scoring BSL Championship game match up last year and London's more comfortable win the first game between these old adversaries two weeks previously. The Bulls had been boosted by the previous weeks win over Gateshead and being awarded a victory over London Mets to boost their record to 3-2 prior to meeting the O's, but knew that their play-off place was by no means certain.

The first half ended scoreless, although Birmingham could feel they had the better of the play. London moved the ball into their opponents half only once, despite strong running from Warren Keen and Collis Seale-McConnie. The drive, mid way through the second quarter, began when Damien Anderson recovered a fumble, but London were unable to make a first down and asked Andy Boyle to attempt a 50yard field goal. The kick appeared to have length enough, but went left of the posts.

Birmingham, meanwhile had several chances to score in the opening half. The first real opportunity came early in the second quarter, QB Dave Winter making a big pass completion to Mark Cohen, then hard running from Paul Duncan moved the ball to the O's 4. The Bulls declined a chip-shot field goal on 4th and 1 at the 4, but Winter's attempted sneak was halted. However, the O's promptly found themselves in a deep hole, facing 3rd and 13 at their own 2 and there then followed the most controversial moment of the game. London QB Junior Price fumbled the snap and Bulls DE Spats Lewis apparently fell on the loose ball in the end zone. However he was ruled to have recovered the ball inside the 1-yard line. The Bulls obviously let the disputed call rattle their concentration and as the London defence dug in,
the offence was moved back to the 10, from where Nick Burt missed a 27 yard field goal. As the half wound down, Birmingham again drove into London's red zone, Dave Winter completing 5 out of 6 passes on a 58-yard drive, that began with only 1.18 left on the clock. Nick Burt caught 3 passes on the drive, ending the day with 7 catches for 94 yards. As time expired, the Bulls had reached the 2 yard line, but Winter's final pass fell incomplete.

The second half started much as the first with neither team able to move the ball. The first real opening also proved to be the breakthrough. Warren Keen's run moved the ball to the Bulls 33, then Seale-McConnie took a hand-off and rumbled through the middle of the defence for the opening score, with 4.14 left in the quarter. Birmingham were unable to reply, and London took over the ball at the start of the final period. They seized their opportunity and mounted a 9-play, 73-yard drive that took over 7 minutes off the clock. They were aided by successive disputed personal foul calls and capped the drive when Keen scored from the 3. Boyle's kick made
it 14-0 with 7.50 to play.

Birmingham's next drive ended when relief QB Doug Cotterell was sacked, but despite being forced to punt, the defence held behind Spats Lewis 2nd sack of Price. However Cotterell took over with only 1.04 remaining and although they managed to move the ball 72 yards downfield, the final 30 yard TD pass to Mark Cohen came as time was about to run out.

Although Birmingham held London to only 12 total yards passing,  the O's strong ground game and run defence had made the difference between the sides. While the Bulls defence had held their opponents to only 25 rushing yards in the first half, led by Matt Barrett's 10 tackles and Spats Lewis' 2 sacks, as the defence tired London were able to take the advantage. Birmingham now look to their local derby with Redditch Arrows, knowing they have to win both their remaining games to stand a real chance of progressing to the play-offs. The game takes place at their Norman Green venue this coming Sunday, kick-off 2.30.