11th December 2001 - Sweet revenge for England over Scotland

ENGLAND enjoyed sweet revenge over traditional rival Scotland with a 14-0 victory to lift the Sky Sports NFL Sunday Trophy at Saffron Lane Stadium in Leicester, erasing the memory of their loss to the Scots a year ago.

The under 19-year-olds battled for the annual trophy in a clash that will be televised during future regular season coverage of the 2001 NFL season on Sky Sports. A youthful Scotland side struggled to prize open an England defense that held a sizeable weight and height advantage to shut out the visitors from north of the border.

In last year’s meeting in Glasgow Scotland stormed to a 44-2 victory, but there was to be no free-scoring repeat as both sides struggled to hold onto the ball in crisp conditions and turnovers regularly halted offensive drives.

Team Europe candidate Jordan Falconer, who plays junior ball for East Kilbride Pirates intercepted a tipped pass early on to put the Scots in commanding field position. But as quickly as Scotland mounted an offensive threat, the English defense, led by MVP Paolo Bandini of the Warwick University Wolves, came up with a turnover of its own.

All the scoring came in the second quarter as a ground attack led by the elusive rushing of London Blitz running back and offensive MVP Lennox Johnson led England to within striking distance of the endzone. London Os passer Luke Smith capped his final international appearance at junior level with a quarterback keeper from a yard out to open the scoring and Pete Rogers of Tees Valley added the extra point.

"This is the perfect way to end my junior career," said Smith, who will turn 20 in the summer. "This makes up for last year when I missed the game up in Glasgow because I was having my wisdom teeth removed. I know the other lads came back from that loss upset at the score, so I’m pleased for them that we won."

Scotland was haunted by another turnover and England took full advantage as the dominant Johnson carried the ball to the 4-yard mark. A holding penalty pushed England back five yards, but gave Smith the space to drop back and pick out Os wide receiver Graham Warby in the corner of the endzone with a lofted pass for a second touchdown. Rogers was again true with the PAT.

Scotland might have produced an instant comeback before halftime, but two promising drives stalled short of the endzone. Quarterback Robbie Paulin of the Moray Firth Dolphins fumbled and Os defensive lineman Christopher Wavenbwei recovered, then on fourth down a Paulin pass aimed for Team Europe prospect wide receiver Mark Squires was batted down by London Blitz defensive back Tim Tang.

"I’m delighted for the lads who have worked long and hard for this win," said England head coach Simon Newnham. "Last year we endured a long and delayed train journey to Scotland and were demoralised by a heavy defeat. Now they can erase the memory of that loss and enjoy victory."

Former Scottish Claymores wide receiver Scott Couper coached the Scotland wideouts and said: "I’m proud of those kids. They played their hearts out and although there was a definite mismatch size wise, they learned a lot and they’ll bounce back. Just as England was the younger and less experienced team last year, we are this time, but that means in 2002 we’ll have a wiser and very hungry team looking to recapture the trophy."

Chairman of the British American Football Association Gary Marshall presented the Sky Sports NFL Sunday Trophy to MVPs Johnson and Bandini and had words of encouragement for players on both sides.

"What we saw here today is that there is a promising future for the game in this country," he said. "Two young teams fought hard and proudly represented their country and these players will carry the game forward and hopefully continue to enjoy playing for many more years.

"This might have been a game of two teams on opposite sides of the ball, but when they all come together in the form of Great Britain next summer and take on the rest of Europe, I can see there will be a great combination of talent."

Great Britain join five other nations to contest the 2002 European Junior Championship next year and will include coaches and players from both England and Scotland in an attempt to wrestle the championship from the grip of reigning champion Germany.