10th April 2005

Dublin Dragons 6-20 Essex Blades

This was not just a special day for the Blades as the Dragons hard work to turn the opportunity into a Charity game had attracted the attention of a Dublin Councillor, who kindly performed the coin toss. This was duly won by the Dragons, who chose to receive the ball.

The Dragons first offensive drive started well through the running of both backs until, on 4th and 1yd, the Dragons chose to go for it relying on the run that had been working well for them so far. Luckily, for the Blades, MLB Gareth Waterhouse was on an oppurtune blitz assignment to break the play up in the backfield and the turnover on downs brought up the Blades offence, featuring an unusual look with rookie QB Steve Montgomery starting his first ever game as the signal caller.

After a minor crisis on the first Blades offensive play, which caused a loss of 8yds, the staple running of RB Matt Excell took over with immediate success, first barrelling back to the original Line of Scrimmage, before finding a wide open cutback lane on a sweep play, allowing the scatback to find the open field in which Dublin’s defenders never looked likely to catch him as he raced 56yds for the opening Touchdown. Kicker Alan Payne slotted the PAT (special note for a great hold by stand in H Rich Yarsley) to set the Blades off nicely at 7-0.

The Blades running game continued to be extremely effective through the first half but could not puncture the endzone, with FB Tyler Vose and RB Phil Pearson along with Excell a seemingly baffling combination for Dublin in open field whilst remaining frustratingly bogged down by their size in the redzone. The Blades Defence was making plays against the Dublin attack, however and, with Waterhouse and ‘Rookie’ ILB Alan Rennard handling much of the stodgy Dragon running game, OLB Mark Batchelder was freed up from blockers to record a huge sack for the loss of 10yds. This forced an errant pass from the Dublin QB and this was sniffed out by a hawkish OLB Steve Tighe taking a picture perfect interception back 47yds for a touchdown. With a successful PAT by Waterhouse the Essex Boys took an imposing 14-0 lead into half time.

The Dragons started brighter in the second half, driving down to the Blades 7yd line where Blades DE Victor Ahumada broke his arm bringing down the big running back short of the end zone, forcing OT Steve O’Callaghan to play two-way Ironman Football. From the 7, however, Dragon’s TE Alan Connolly (facing the Essex defence once more after a stint with BCAFL’s Greenwich Mariners) used his experience of the Blades in getting open and receiving the pass from Rob Olwill in the end zone. The Blades stepped up to block the PAT to leave the score at 14-6.

With the Blades now playing a vast number of backups, QB A.J. Fenwick completed passes to several rookie receivers including Pete Hannon and Ben Lawford and Pearson had a couple of nice runs on each offensive drive that came up, but the consistency was lacking and Dublin were eventually set up in the Blades redzone in the middle of the fourth quarter. A huge effort by the defence stopped the drive 5 yards out with tight coverage from the Essex secondary and mass disruption from the D-Line featuring DT "Brick" Clarke and 3 Ironmen in OG/DT Spencer Horsey alongside Bragaglia allowing O’Callaghan a devastating 4th down sack. The offence were still unable to get much going and when Pearson was brought down behind the line for a loss and a concussion the Essex punt team, who had performed well all game, produced an unfortunate Waterhouse miskick, leaving the Dragons on the Essex 7yd line. Fortunately, the defence was in bullish mood by now: holding tough, forcing costly penalties and, ultimately, refusing to let the score in.

With 2 minutes remaining Essex attempted to run down the clock with a series of dives and sweeps, paying almost immediate and astonishing dividends as Vose turned a counter play into a 72yrd Touchdown run. All hope for a Dragons comeback was extinguished seconds later as Rennard capped another fine post-season performance with a game-sealing interception and Fenwick knelt out the clock to leave the 20-6 victor Blades undefeated (never thought you’d hear that, did you!) against non-British opposition.

A great day all round then, as the combined charity efforts of the two teams produced a bounty of nearly €800 for the Chernobyl Children’s Fund, to add to a superb display of football.