BUCS Finals Day 2018
BUCS Finals Day 2018
Game images courtesy of Kev Cleaver
Billed as the exciting finale to the University League and held at the impressive SixWays Stadium in Worcester, this event is a double header that showcases the best programmes in the country going head to head for National Championship honours. The early game sees the respective Champions of the North and South from the Division One strata, vying for the National Champions title, both these teams arrive at this point having already secured promotion to the Premier division for next season. In the late game we see the top two teams emerging from the eight team Premiership play-offs, who this year, were both from the Northern Division.
In 2018 the BUCS post season had been be-set by problems, some were caused by freak weather conditions (the beast from the east blizzards), other problems were down to a lack of foresight and poor administration by the governing body. The end result was that a number of teams didn’t get the opportunity to taste the play-off football they had qualified for, and that some of the finalists only had to negotiate one game, if they had to play at all, to find themselves in the final.
To the Football, and the first match up, the University of Nottingham versus the University of West England (Bristol). UWE had the ball first but were unable to get any traction against a tenacious Nottingham defence, a pattern that would continue throughout the game. Having had to punt they caught a break when the ball hit a Nottingham player and they recovered the ball. Despite this bit of good fortune, they were unable to capitalise and turned the ball over on downs. Nottingham quarterback Pat Daley entered the game, breaking a big run, before handing off to running back Derek Knott who raced in on a jet sweep for the go-ahead score, the kick was good and the first quarter ended at 7-0 Nottingham.
The second quarter saw Nottingham stamp their authority on the game, with two further scores from Knott on roll out passes from Daley, and a short yardage run from Pierce Ripanti, add in some PAT points and at half time the contest was effectively over with the score sitting at 29-0 Nottingham.
Into the second half, and Nottingham were dominating in the trenches, with defensive tackle Troy Glenn constantly disrupting UWE’s efforts to make gains. The Nottingham sideline held their collective breath as Daley went down heavily on a run play, and had to leave the game. Back up QB Tunde Pratt came in and made an immediate impact, sweeping left for a 20-yard touchdown run, the PAT was good and the score moved to 36-0. Any hope that UWE had of getting anything out of the game when their valiant quarterback (Ryan Batt) had to leave the game with a leg injury.
The officials had instigated the running clock, reducing Nottingham’s chances to add to their total, but they did manage a further score in quarter four when Daley found LaQuan Lambert with a pass down the middle, which also benefitted from a conversion kick. The final score then, was 43-0 Nottingham. UWE had battled hard, but it was always going to be a big ask against a well-coached Nottingham programme featuring eight scholarship athletes, and a smattering of elite British players. In Division One, the power appeared to be in the North, or more accurately in the Midlands, Nottingham’s toughest challenges on the season having come against their local rivals, Nottingham Trent, who had actually led them at the half in the play-off semi-final.
Next up was the Premier Division duel for the alpha position in British Universities American Football. Hear we had two teams from the North, last year’s beaten finalists the University of Durham Saints, against the University of Derby Braves, the latter who had turned their season around to engineer a strong play-off run, culminating with a spot in the final. Even more impressive on the part of the Braves, considering their roster ran to just twenty six players.
Derby had the first possession, with veteran quarterback Troy Jackson looking to make an impression, but stout defending by the aggressive Durham defence nullified his efforts. Durham however, were unable to make much of an impact on offence themselves, with Derby’s two-way standout, Taylor Brown breaking up passes. The first quarter ended with the game scoreless.
Derby had the chance to open their account when an impressive drive stalled, and they attempted a field goal, unfortunately for them, the kick fell short. Durham took over the ball and with Poindexter at quarterback moved downfield on a succession of effective plays. At the two minute warning they were in the redzone, Brown made a great play for Derby deep in the Saints backfield, forcing them to attempt a field goal of their own. The kick was good, and the first half closed with Durham holding a 3-0 lead.
The second half saw Durham with the first possession and Poindexter feeding the ball to running back Anderson, who was eating up the yards. With the Braves having to respect the run, Poindexter went deep, finding his receiver for a touchdown. The kick was good and the Saints edged there lead to 10-0. Derby weren’t about to give up though and drove deep into Durham territory. Unfortunately, a crucial fumbled snap killed the drive for the Braves as Durham recovered the ball to close out quarter three.
Derby were running out of time, and when they turned the ball over on downs, the contest was effectively over. Anderson chipped in with some more hard yards for Durham, setting up his fellow running back, Samuel Oram Jones to dart in from the Braves eighteen-yard line and put the exclamation point on the win for the Saints. It was now 17-0 with little time left, but Derby did get a deserved consolation score by way of a touchdown catch from Jack Verling. The Braves were unable to convert the score, and the game ended with Durham taking a knee to secure a 17-6 win and their first National Championship.
So at the end of the 2018 BUCS season what had we learned?
1 - There are some very talented athletes playing in the British Universities League.
2 – The administrators need to re-visit the schedule, and the “interpretation” of their rules, especially the play-off section.
3 – If your university has the dollars to pay for scholars you will greatly enhance your chances of winning.