Quite simply one of the best games of British American Football we’ve seen in recent memory.
Eighty-one points, pick sixes, punt return touchdowns, fumble recovery touchdowns, multiple lead changes, two ambulance calls, a fight, player ejections and an onside kick – this game had it all.
Somehow I’ll try and keep this report condensed but trust me when I say, there’s no way I could include everything that happened in here.
A quick check on the situation before the match told us that this was only going one way; the 3-0 Birmingham Bulls travelling to the 0-3 Lincolnshire Bombers – the popular Facebook polls giving the Bombers a 5% chance of victory.
This wasn’t helped by the continued absence of key personnel on both sides of the ball. While Jack Paddison (ankle) and Ben Harris (back) remain long-term absentees, both Chris Wilson and George Gaunt were added to the inactive list from the potential starting XIs against Birmingham.
Regardless, in searing heat the game kicked off and while the Bombers opening drive was ineffective, the D soon had the ball back in home hands with a forced fumble by Ben Beales recovered by Kris Ashton/Joe Hickson.
A shot to the endzone didn’t connect for the Bombers so the decision was taken for a field goal attempt, which resulted in the first touchdown…for the Bulls.
A fumbled hold and attempted pass was picked up by the Bulls special teams and returned the length of the field for the opening score. The 2pt attempt no good but we found ourselves behind early doors 0-6.
After some more good work by a combination of Beales and new recruit Korey Rankin, the Bombers got the ball back once more and quickly made yards with Nathan Haymer-Bates ripping off his first big play of the day – a 30 yard punt return to midfield.
That was quickly converted into six points as Andy Bagnall connected with Elliot Maris who ran half the field to dive in the corner and level the score. A blocked PAT keeping matters level at six-apiece.
The defence came back onto the field and almost had an immediate stop but a personal foul extended the Bulls drive infuriating Head Coach and Defensive Co-ordinator Tex.
His anger was justified soon after though as the defence held firm on the goalline to stop the Bulls drive and keep the scores level – end of the first quarter and probably the least dramatic of them all…
The hosts started the second quarter on fire, a big catch for Ryan Wakeling followed up by another big connection to Maris took the Bombers deep into the redzone.
However, a Bagnall keeper, which was stopped just short of the line, caused a serious injury to a Bulls man to delay the game for a long time. The ambulance was called onto the field with concerns over a neck injury and players needed to warm back up before play could restart. (News is that the Bulls player was able to walk away from A&E later in the day).
The next play after the delay saw Bagnall stroll into the end zone for a touchdown. With the drama that had gone on previously it was understandably muted celebrations. The PAT successful, Lincolnshire led 13-6.
Then it was the Bulls turn to drive. Despite good tackling from CJ McAllister and pass disruption from Matt Sawdon, the Bulls connected in the corner and converted their two point attempt to move back ahead at 13-14.
This preceded a tight spell in the game with both defences briefly on top – the Bombers feeling aggrieved when Lewis Colver’s sideline pass to Wakeling was intercepted after what appeared to be a clear push by the Bulls DB, but the home defence also stopping any forward progress for the visitors.
The next score came from the brilliance of running-back Haymer-Bates. The rookie, who has threatened to breakaway several times already this season, finally turned that small gain into a big one and charged over half the field into the end zone to give the Bombers their second lead of the day. The blocked PAT meant the half time score was 19-14.
In the heat and with the injury delay earlier, the start of the second half already felt a long way from when the players first hit the field. Frustratingly the visitors were quick out of the blocks and scored on their opening drive. A rushing touchdown backed up by the 2pt conversion made the score 19-22 – another lead change.
It didn’t get much better for the hosts shortly after as a good Haymer-Bates run was called back for a holding penalty before another interception gave Bulls the ball. The Bomber’s D almost recovered it immediately but a forced fumble landed straight into the hands of another Bulls attacker – sustaining their drive.
Not only did the drive result in a touchdown to extend the lead to 28-19 (no PAT), but shortly beforehand Lincolnshire linebacker Adam Simeoni went down with a serious ankle injury to further delay the game and add to the Bombers’ injury woes.
But rather than lick their wounds, the Bombers were straight back into the game and it was Haymer-Bates for the second time who produced the magic. A punt return touchdown went the distance, reducing the arrears to 25-28 (no PAT).
With Birmingham shocked, the Bombers struck again. A quick defensive stop followed by another Haymer-Bates run ended in a perfectly flighted ball from Colver to Jordan Hancock for the TD. Just like Maris earlier, Hancock registering his first touchdown for the side. With a good PAT, the Bombers retook the lead 32-28 and kept that lead into the fourth quarter.
With most games around the country already finished, the Bombers-Bulls epic was drawing more attention from online and the drama was just intensifying.
A good series from the D, with a key tackle from Ross Wheatley helping stop the drive, put the offence back on the field. However, it all kicked off when a high tackle on Haymer-Bates resulted in a big flare-up.
While Haymer-Bates reacted first the referees deemed to impose punishment on offensive guard Martin Brearley and ejected him from the game – much to the confusion of the sideline. As a result, the Bombers first down run and 15 yard penalty gain for a high tackle, resulted in a 25 yard penalty loss enforced on the next play.
This changed the momentum drastically and gifted the ball back to the Bulls.
A long drive followed, built from repeated short strikes to their no.10 receiver, however, this pattern stalled at the goalline. The Bulls went for it on fourth down and thought they made it but a holding penalty called the play back. They went again and missed the connection but a holding penalty on our defence (we’re still unsure who they called it on) set up a new set of downs.
Once again the defence stood tall – another fourth down goalline attempt…failed. Lincolnshire had the ball back on the 5 yard line inside the two-minute warning with the score 32-28.
The Bombers jump on second down and the 5-yard penalty changed the decision on the following play to a pass which unbelievably is intercepted. Although the return is stopped short, the Bulls made the endzone and led 34-32 with a failed PAT.
The Bombers, now trailing, had to air it out with just over a minute left on the clock but a second interception in quick succession all-but ended the game with the return taken to the house. The 2pt conversion made the score 42-32.
Incredibly, with seconds left, that wasn’t the end of the scoring. Another Colver strike over the middle to the speedy Hancock produces a third touchdown within the two-minute warning and the PAT reduces the arrears to 42-39.
With less than 20 seconds to go it’s onside kick or nothing… but the Bulls recover.
They kneel out the game and take a hard-fought victory to head to 4-0 on the season while the Bombers drop to 0-4. An incredible match and the second tough late loss in succession for an unlucky Bombers side.
The visit of Knottingley to North Hykeham next week presents the Bombers with an immediate opportunity to get their first win of the season under their belts in gameweek five, and on the balance of the last two performances, they deserve it.