29th August 2001 - London O's 27-0 Birmingham Bulls

The London O’s booked their place at the 2001 British Senior League Final in Sheffield on 9 September with a shut out win over the Birmingham Bulls in unrelenting rain at Southwark Park. After the game, Coach Riq Ayub said, "Lots of people have strong opinions about the O’s. I hope they all come to Don Valley on 9 September to watch us in the final". Turning to the O’s performance against the Bulls, Coach Ayub was delighted with the manner of the win, in particular the score line, he said: "Our offense scored through the air and on the ground, even the D got a score, but better than that is the shut out."

General manager Steve McAlpine said of the game: "It’s great to beat the old rivals, it’s great to be going back to the final, and it’s great to see two rookies who last year were playing for our youth team make such an impression". Steve went on: "If anyone still doubts the value of having a youth development programme, they should have been here today!"

The O’s Senior team are now in their seventh final in six years, including the EuroCup in 1999.


Match report

The weather forecasters predicted a beautiful sunny day; instead we were submitted to continuous rain. The football forecasters predicted a close game; instead we got a one sided affair.

The Bulls and O’s rivalry is amongst the fiercest in Britball, yet the only dissent on the day was between the officials and the sidelines and amongst the Bulls offense.


First quarter

The O’s won the toss but went three and out on the opening drive. The Bulls could do no better and punted the ball away on fourth down.

Again the O’s went three and out. On the Bulls next possession they fumbled the wet ball for Tim Newton to hand the O’s offense the best field position of the game so far. Warren Keen was running the ball at this stage for the O’s and having made a first down the O’s passed. QB Stuart Franklin hit rookie Marvin Allen for the 34 yard score. A bad snap left the score:


London O’s 6 Birmingham Bulls 0

The Bulls again found offense difficult. The wet ball making handling errors commonplace. For the O’s defense Shola Goppy, Scott Rowe, Bola Aiyede making tackles.


Second quarter

Going into the second quarter the O’s again had the ball. Sonnel Baptiste ran for 8 yards before QB Franklin again leant back and this time he hit another rookie, Dwain Clarke, for a 52 yard TD. The two point conversion was made by Junior Price, who was nursing an injured shoulder.


London O’s 14 Birmingham Bulls 0

There was still plenty of time left for the Bulls, but their next drive was to prove decisive. Following a touch back the Bulls started on their 20 yard line. After a Paul Duncan run, QB Winter threw the ball to a grateful Francis Hatega who appeared to run the ball back for the score, but a block in the back penalty after the change of possession brought the O’s offense on to the field instead.

Finding themselves deep in Bulls territory it was simply a matter of time before the O’s scored. This time on the ground with Keen running in from 26 yards out after some great down field blocking by his team mates. A missed kick meant the scoreboard read


London O’s 20 Birmingham Bulls 0

Now the Bulls were in need of some rapid offense. However, the O’s defense was as mean as ever. Lance Knight, Scott Rowe and Wes Roach controlled the aerial routes; Sacha Conte, Tim Newton and Shola Goppy closed the rushing lanes; and Dave Glover, Kevin Newton, and Danny Berry manhandled the line, whilst Marco Fasulo and Gary Thomas harried the quarterback and anyone else who came near them. As a result of this pressure, Gary Thomas sacked the Bulls QB for a loss of 12 yards to end any chance of the Bulls scoring in the first half.

With very little time on the clock, the O’s managed to manouevre themselves into field goal range, but the conditions were not favourable and the 33 yard attempt went wide.


Third quarter

A scoreless period of play. With the rain at its heaviest, neither team could mount an effective drive. Roland Williams had joined the fray as running back, but he could not find the daylight he needs to get that open field speed of his working.

The O’s defense was still working hard, notably with Damian Anderson throwing himself head long into the tackle.


Fourth quarter

As the game clock and internal strife became factors as big as the O’s defense, the Bulls offense continued to struggle. Despite some individual successes, the Bulls could not sustain a drive. Forced to the air more and more, the inevitable happened and Scott Rowe ran his interception back 20 yards for the score. Andy Boyle’s kick was good to leave the score:


London O’s 27 Birmingham Bulls 0

This effectively ended the game and whilst neither team stopped trying their hardest, there was no further score.



A game in which the O’s never looked in trouble. Offensively, the O’s looked impressive. Against a class defense like the Bulls, the O’s coaches called a great game. The run set up the pass and vice versa. In conditions like those faced, the offense executed the basics and were patient enough to exploit the opportunities presented. After the game Coach Cliff Morgan was his happiest all season with the ball handling skills of his running backs, "Everyone seemed to fumble during the regular season. But today, despite the wet conditions, we held on to the ball well. It’s just getting the basics right."

On defense, the whole unit was outstanding. From the line, through the line backers to the secondary the defense were excellent. The Bulls managed less than 150 yards of total offense. The Bulls have some very large and experienced players, but athleticism, coaching and team spirit held sway.


Looking forward

The O’s are going to their fifth final in succession. On 9 September the O’s meet the East Kilbride Pirates in Sheffield. The Pirates secured their place in the final with a 22 - 0 win over Southern SunDevils.

The O’s last met the Pirates in the semi finals in 2000, when the O’s won 45 - 7.

Report courtesy of Stephen McAlpine, General Manager, London O's American Football Club