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Cobras Bite The Bullets

The Cobras welcomed the number 1 ranked UWE Bullets to Llanrumney on Sunday, marking the first occasion that a match was played on the new 3G built at The Fortress over the summer. Both teams came into the game boasting a 1-0 record, with Cardiff beating Exeter and the visitors enjoying a shutout victory against Gloucester. The game also marked the return of Quarterback Rich Gardner to the starting lineup having been out of action since February after suffering a serious knee injury against Swansea.

Rich Gardner take up position under centre. (c) TallBoy Images

Rich Gardner takes up position under centre. (c) TallBoy Images


Cardiff won the toss and elected to receive the ball. The opening drive for the Cobras offense showed promise, but was ended with an interception on 3rd down which gave the ball to the ever dangerous UWE offense, already in Cobras territory. After driving down the field, the Bullets forced the Cobras defense to step up early and find a goal line stand to keep the game scoreless. A 4th down attempt was stuffed in the backfield by Will Harris, and the Cobras took over with the ball deep in their own territory. A quick 3 and out for the Cobras gave the ball to UWE at midfield, but with some outstanding play in the trenches, Cardiff forced 3 sacks on 3 consecutive plays; one a piece for Harry Kirkham, Will Harris and Mofe Charles Duro-Emaunel. The battle for field position was dominated early by the guests, however, and eventually led to the UWE defense forcing the Cobras to give up a safety midway through the 1st quarter; Bullets 2-0 Cobras.

With some breathing room between themselves and their own endzone, the Cobras offense began to play more freely. A couple of solid runs from Rhys Rømo and Ayo Akintunde behind lead blocker Billy Rowlands helped establish some much needed momentum on offense, as the aggressive front seven of the bullets looked to create havoc and force mistakes within the Cardiff backfield. On the other side of the ball, the defense had settled into its stride, containing UWE and not allowing their opponents to extend the advantage. Linebacker Toby Lock dominated the middle of the field for the Cobras on seemingly every snap, absolutely deleting any threat posed by the UWE backs.


Cobras President Rhys Rømo running hard. (c) TallBoy Images

Midway through the second quarter, the Cobras were dealt a blow when Akintunde was stripped of the football by a UWE defensive end, and the ball was run back for a touchdown making the score 8-0. The two point conversion attempt was failed. After a quick 3 and out from the Cobras, the half ended with UWE putting together a solid drive and converting a 30 yard field goal. At the half, the Cobras trailed 11-0.

The second half began with UWE receiving the ball and Cardiff needing to up their game if they were to have a hope of staying in the contest. A mix up between the UWE returners gave them poor field position and they began their drive from their own 13 yard line. Some tough play by the Cobras made life difficult for the Bullets, who couldn’t find a way past. Big hits from rookie Cornerback Marcus Isaac and Free Safety Ed Woolcott forced incompletions and ultimately a UWE punt, and gave the Cobras the ball at midfield. The Cobras offense was still looking for a spark that would ignite the team and the scoreboard, and the two teams traded possessions for much of the 3rd quarter. Some solid defense from the Cobras was shown by Defensive End Max Gathercole and Linebackers Shaun Rees and Jason Roberts sniffing out a threatening triple option play and shutting it down before any damage was done.

Coming towards the end of the 3rd quarter, the offense found the spark. With the ball at midfield, some great work up front in the trenches by the lineman was repaid when Akintunde got to the edge, broke a tackle, and sprinted down the sideline for a gain of 35 yards to put the Cobras in the redzone for the first time. Proving to be lethal when given a sniff, the Cardiff offense was in the mood for some points. Gardner rolled out to the right and found Stefan Pollitt open, who juked a defensive back and left the rest for dead as he strolled into the endzone for his 3rd touchdown grab of the season. With the score at 11-6, Cardiff attempted to make it a 3 point game, but the UWE defense held firm and the score remained unchanged.


Veteran Back Ayo Akintunde shows his blistering pace. (c) TallBoy Images

Veteran Back Ayo Akintunde shows his blistering pace. (c) TallBoy Images

The ensuing kickoff landed Cardiff in trouble. A long return set UWE up at the Cobras 35 to begin their drive. With the momentum on their side, the hosts were forced to dig in and make a game changing play. After a couple of solid plays, the Bullets were inside the Cardiff redzone. Smelling the game winning score, the Bullets Quarterback lofted a ball to the endzone on the left side, where 2nd year Cornerback Alex Fitzpatrick was there to pick it off with an unbelievable catch and quell any ideas that the Cobras were to let the Bullets walk out of The Snake Pit with an easy win.


Cornerback Alex Fitzpatrick pulls off a stunning interception (c) TallBoy Images

Cornerback Alex Fitzpatrick pulls off a stunning interception (c) TallBoy Images

Heading into the 4th quarter with the score at 11-6, it was anybody’s ball game. As darkness descended upon Llanrumney, the quarter was played entirely under floodlights only adding to the atmosphere. Cardiff began on offense and found themselves backed up in their own territory after the interception by Fitzpatrick. Some short timing patterns forged completions to Pollitt and a couple of Cardiff first downs. With the clock ticking, Cardiff were forced to punt the ball from just inside their own half. Rookie punter James Lloyd pinned the UWE offense at their own 5 with an outstanding punt of 50 yards which helped Cardiff to dominate the field position battle. The Cobras could smell blood.

UWE began their drive with the hope of running the clock out. The were helped by a 15 yard facemask penalty against the Cardiff defense which gave them some room to manoeuvre. Huge collisions took place on every play as both teams battled it out for the win. With the ball on their own 30 on 2nd down, there was confusion in the Bullets backfield on a read option play and the ball hit the deck. DE Harry Kirkham was the first to react and pounce on the loose ball, and the Cobras took possession deep behind enemy lines.

With the clock running down it was now or never for the Cobras offense. With two incompletions in a row, 3rd and 10 beckoned. Gardner dropped back and had time after the offensive line picked up the blitz, and he found Dan Reeves on a corner route behind the UWE secondary for the catch. Reeves turned and saw a wide open path to the endzone and he outpaced the scrambling Bullets defence. Touchdown Cobras. Cardiff were up 12-11 in the dying moments of the game. Looking to put the Cobras up by a field goal with the 2 point conversion, Gardner fooled the defense on a play action fake and waltzed into the endzone untouched to give Cardiff the all important 3 point advantage; Bullets 11-14 Cobras.

It was left to the defense to come up with the stop necessary to walk off the field with the W. With 1:51 left on the clock, and no timeouts, UWE would be forced to drive the length of the field if they wanted a shot at winning the game. Some resolute defending saw UWE faced with a 3rd and long situation. Looking down the right sideline, the Bullet’s QB launched a bomb to his receiver. It connected for a gain of 40. The clock continued to move, however, which aided the Cobras in their efforts. A 15 yard penalty was handed out against the defense and all of a sudden, UWE were in field goal range with less than a minute to play. The tension on both sidelines was palpable. Another pass was completed over the middle, with the clock continuing to run, and then another deep into Cobra territory. The UWE sideline erupted thinking that they had scored the game winner to break Cardiff hearts, but it was just shy. 1st and goal from the Cobras 1 yard line. 30 seconds left to play. Two passes in a row were lofted to receivers in the right hand corner of the endozone. Both plays were defended with blanket coverage by veteran safety Robin Ford, saving the game winner. Another pass fell incomplete, and with 15 seconds left to play, it was 4th and goal from the Cobras 1 yard line. Out came the Bullet’s field goal unit to send the game into overtime. Both teams knew the significance of the upcoming play. With the game on the line, the snap was gathered by the holder and placed down. Seemingly from out of nowhere, Jason Roberts and Shaun Rees dived in front of the kick, blocked it, and sealed the deal for the Cobras in an epic finish to a great game. All that was left were the formalities. The Cardiff offense took to the field for one last time to kneel the ball in victory formation. The upset, come-from-behind win was complete.

Cobras HC Ben Watkins celebrates the win. (c) TallBoy ImagesCobras HC Ben Watkins celebrates the win. (c) TallBoy Images

A hard fought contest by both sides led to a fantastic game and a great advert for British American Football. Next up, the 2-0 Cardiff Cobras head to Clifton to face off against the 2-0 Bristol Barracuda in a game the could have serious playoff implications in the SWAC. Following that, another away trip to Plymouth before the Swansea Titans are welcomed into The Snake Pit on the 7th December in a game that is sure not to disappoint.

The Cobras would like to extend a big thank you to Craig Thomas of TallBoy Images, who came along and produced some brilliant photography during the game.




All photos are copyright Cardiff Cobras unless otherwise stated. We occasionally use photos from other sources, and are very grateful for all images that we receive. We try to credit wherever possible. Please contact us if we mistakenly use your image and you wish us to remove it or add a credit.

The images of helmets used in our schedule are made with a template created by Frazer Davidson. His Deviantart site can be found here.

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