Sunday 3rd September

A sliver of the ball breaking the plane on a goal line play for six points was enough to counter the powerful boot of Pete Rogers' 45 yard field goal to send the Senators home and the Sundevils to Surrey next Sunday after what must rank as one of the most tightly fought games in the league this year.

If either team thought the other was going to be a walkover, then both were sadly mistaken. Tension started early with a penalty against Gateshead for defensive pass interference, quickly followed in the same Southern drive by a series of flags against the Sundevils as the officials determined to make their mark early. Gateshead regained the ball with a Ross Elliott interception of the Sundevils' American QB Eric Lewis, but the Gateshead offense could not capitalise and the teams traded punts for the rest of the quarter.

The second quarter saw a little more action, but Senator QB Pete Rogers was having problems sustaining a drive in the air, and being intercepted by Sundevil Dale Powell didn't help. Eric Lewis was sacked by Rich Marshall and Southern had to punt, but a mix up on the Senator receiving team allowed the Sundevils to recover their own punt. But the Gateshead defense held firm once more ending the drive. Ross Elliott got his second interception of Lewis, and Rogers started to find some rhythm with passes to Richard Green and running by Duncan French and John Harrison. But the half ended scoreless under the baking sun.

The stalemate was broken in the third quarter. The Sundevils had brought another Gateshead offensive drive to a stop but the strong boot of Pete Rogers enabled the Senators to go for the field goal and Pete Rogers' kick was good from 45 yards to put the first points on the board. But then each team found the other hard to break, with the Sundevil defense stopping the Senators despite some good gains with the ground game, and the Senator defense shutting down the Sundevils' passing game and limiting the ground game.

The fourth quarter started with a further exchange of punts and it looked as though Gateshead could get through with that field goal. But then Roland Quayle intercepted Pete Rogers and achieved excellent field position for the Sundevils. In the last minutes of the game Scott Miller brought Southern a 1st and goal at the 6. A play later and the ball was millimetres from the goal line. On the snap there was a surge of Sundevil yellow and Senator white above which reached forward a yellow clad arm holding the ball which was then knocked back. It would all depend whether the ball had broken the plane. Southern gleefully indicated Touchdown, while Gateshead shook their heads. The officials made no signal. The argument raged around the pile up and after 28 seconds, the referee signalled for the Southern score. Their two point attempt was no good, making the score 3-6. Another Senator drive came to nothing and the game ended as Southern were about to take possession again.

So it's Southern Sundevils who progress to meet their division rivals PA Knights, Gateshead's dream is over - but only for this year.