History was made at the weekend as the Lincolnshire Bombers secured their first ever play-off spot with an explosive victory over the Knottingley Raiders.
Heading into the game knowing a win would be enough to secure the club's first post-season berth, you could've excused there being tension around the side but rather than that, there was an air of confidence surrounding the visitors before the match (either that or any nerves had been knocked out by the blazing sunshine that was beating down again).
This confidence was quickly reflected on the scoreboard when the match kicked off. A good kick return from Nathan Haymer-Bates was built on by a a catch and run from Jack Paddison before quarterback Andy Bagnall found Russell Moore in acres of space on the right side to stroll home for the opening touchdown. The PAT was good (as were the other five the Bombers took in the match) for 7-0.
When the defence first took the field they started perfectly too. A forced fumble by Ben Beales was recovered by Adam 'Buff' Bailey to put the ball back in the offence's hands. However, just one play later and the ball was in the Bombers endzone - an intercepted pass was returned the distance for the Raiders reducing the score to 7-6 (no 2pt conversion).
Not to be deterred, the offence picked themselves up and immediately set down to extending the lead. Two runs from Haymer-Bates took the running back into the endzone, however, a hold pulled the ball back. It only delayed the inevitable though as QB Bagnall took the ball over himself soon after as the score increased to 14-6.
At this point the Bombers went into full steam. Firstly, the defence forced a punt, before straight away again the offence got on the board. Lewis Colver locating Jordan Hancock over the top for the third touchdown of the day.
Then another short Raiders attack, stymied by the Bombers defence, resulted in seven more points to the visitors. It was another aerial connection and the second between Bagnall and Moore who won a jump ball in the endzone to take the score to a dominating 28-6 - a touchdown on every offensive drive (albeit one the other way).
The game steadied slightly after that period (the rampant Bombers offence failed to score a touchdown) and the Raiders capitalised on a ramshackle drive by the play-off hopefuls. A penalty set the offence back and eventually forced a punt, however, a high snap meant the punter had to scramble back and land on the ball at the 5 yard line. Sure enough, Knottingley made the most and ran the ball home for 28-12, again failing with the 2pt conversion.
There was still time for drama, and more points, inside the two minute warning of the first half. Firstly a short pass from Bagnall was taken to the house by Matt Garner for his maiden touchdown (35-12) before Ben Beales picked up an interception with 30 seconds left on the clock to give the offence another shot at goal. Although they managed to drive just over 20 yards in 20 seconds, the final shot for the touchdown was batted away and the score at the half remained 35-12.
As the heat rose throughout the day the second half slowed and tackles began to become weary. A long energy-sapping drive from Knottingley resulted in their third score of the day straight after the restart - this time successfully converted with 2 points (35-20).
But, shortly afterwards the Bombers offence restored their comfortable lead. An action-replay of the short throw earlier saw Garner collect Bagnall's pass and take it to the house for his second score of the day (and his career) which all but finished proceedings in the third quarter at 42-20.
There was still time for two more scores in the final quarter (plenty of entertainment value on offer) as the Bombers struck first through another Colver to Hancock connection - this time the visitors went for the two points and converted with Paddison running it in to bring the 50 up. Then with almost the final action of the game another long Knottingley drive was finished with a nice connection in the corner. There was no 2pt conversion and as the Bombers kneeled it out they knew they had secured a play-off spot with a 50-26 win.
It was confirmed shortly after the game that the Bombers became the 7th seeds in the NFC Division 2 play-offs and will face the 2nd seeded Chester Romans in Cheshire next Sunday. The meeting brings together the two most potent offences in the NFC (the Bombers overtaking division rivals Staffordshire Surge by passing 50 points on Sunday to take second) in what looks to be an incredible match-up.
Regardless of the result in that game, the players, coaches and supporters can feel delighted that they've been part of the club's history in being the first Bombers side to make the play-offs since the reformation of the club in 2005.