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Cobras into quarter finals

In their first National Championship appearance in 3 years (having won the National Plate last year), the Cardiff University Cobras American Football team headed across the Bridge to play a little-known adversary in Oxford Brookes University Panthers.


With a little help from the scheduling gods, Oxford Brookes had notched up an impressive 7-1 record over the regular season – a great feat for a third year team – with experts even predicting them a win over the well-seasoned Cobras squad, but Cardiff were determined to answer their critics. Following confusion over the game’s location, Cardiff arrived slightly late to the venue, but were in high spirits, changed and warmed up quickly on an already pleasantly sunny day, and were eager for the opening kick off.


Oxford Brookes won the toss, but deferred, allowing the Cobras to choose to return the kick off and set their offence out first. The first drive however proved fruitless against a strong Panthers run defence and Cardiff were forced to punt on 4th down. The Cobras defence then took to the field looking to shut out OBU, but ill discipline and consistent running from the Panthers forced the Cobras back, eventually conceding a TD on a wheel pass. It looked like it would be a long day for the Cobras.


The following Cobras offensive drive ended more or less the same way, but OBU’s next drive also ended with a punt. After minor skirmishes from both teams, Cardiff eventually broke the deadlock with a monster punt from Kicker and GB Youth Tackle, Chris Caldwell, which Oxford Brookes mistakenly fielded at the 1 yard line. Pumped at the prospect of a safety, or more, Cardiff’s defence came out with heavy pressure and forced OBU to punt on 4th and 6, however a muffed long snap sailed out of reach of the punter and the end zone for a safety: Cardiff 2 – 7 Oxford Brookes.


There were no more scores until the fourth quarter, but plenty of changes of possession as Cardiff’s running backs failed to keep hold of the ball and Brookes gung-ho quarterback recorded a total of 5 interceptions on the day. The Cobras offence eventually put together a successful drive with time running out, helped by a few flags on OBU, culminating in a touchdown for rookie running back, Ben Fowle, on a sweep. QB Richard Gardner converted the 2 point conversion on a roll-out and Cardiff, for the first time in the game and with only minutes to play, led 10-7.


Cardiff’s defence knew it was on them to finish off the game, and following some more monster hits from middle linebacker, Ollie Devon, who had a huge day, and blanket coverage from defensive backs, Pete Brockway, Tom List and Aled Jones, OBU eventually started to panic. One errant hurl was easily picked off by linebacker Luke Haslett, who returned it 30 yards for the score and Cardiff could breathe easy. A failed 2 point conversion meant a 16-7 lead.


The remaining minute and a half saw a return of the normal run of the game, with both defences making solid tackles the offences stuttered until the referees called the game: Cardiff had secured their place in the next round of the National Championships.


MVPs went to Pete Brockway on defence for an outstanding game which completely shut down OBU’s aerial attack, to Ayo Akintunde on offence for consistently running hard and gaining yards all day and to Chris Caldwell for another fantastic kicking and blocking display. Luke Haslett was awarded overall MVP for a huge effort on defense, being involved in some big tackles, and also his game clinching pick 6.


Cardiff will now travel to Hatfield to face the Hertfordshire Hurricanes in the quarter finals: a team who have racked up over 380 points of offence in 8 regular season games, conceding only 34. This will truly be a test of the Cobras’ talent and heart, with the winner progressing to the last 4, and the loser going home with nothing.




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