Category: Game Previews & Reports

Oxford 14 – 26 Sussex Thunder | Game Summary

GAME HIGHLIGHTS – provided by sussex thunder

Saints show comeback spirit but unable to overcome the tough Sussex Thunder

The rematch between Oxford (2-2) and Sussex (5-0) saw a much more contested game than the previous one, but the Saints failed to overcome a 0-19 deficit at half time.


Following the kickoff, the Saints started with the ball close to their own endzone. With quarterback Kyle Swann under centre for Oxford, disaster struck in the opening play of the game when a pass was tipped up at the line and intercepted by Sussex, just a few yards out from the goalline.

Desperate to avoid giving up an early lead, Saints linebacker Sam Stancombe put pressure on veteran quarterback Eber Kington and on 3rd down, Kington attempted a pass into the endzone but was intercepted by defensive back Sam Crowther, forcing the change of possession.

For the 1st quarter the score remained 0-0 with defenses for both teams holding strong. The Sussex offense with their powerful passing game kept the Saints on guard, but Oxford’s offense struggled to gain momentum.

Oxford had a chance to open the scoring but a touchdown pass to rookie receiver Dre Kays was nullified after a penalty by the Saints offense brought it back.

Sussex eventually struck first in the 2nd quarter with a pass from Kington to Chris Evans who sprinted into the endzone on a 39 yard touchdown.

Andrew Stone kicked the extra point, giving the Thunder a 7-0 lead.


Photo from season opener against Sussex – By Chris Janes

Later in the 2nd quarter, Oxford’s Misha Brooks intercepted Kington and returned it 14 yards, bringing the Saints offense back onto the field. Unable to capitalise, quarterback Kyle Swann was tackled for a loss of 4 yards and then intercepted by Samuel Oldfield for Sussex on 2nd down, returning it 13 yards.

Back to back penalties against Oxford added to the damage and gave the Thunder good field position for their next drive.

On 1st down Kington handed the ball to running back Vince Valentine, who ran straight into the endzone for a 26 yard score.

Stone’s extra point kick missed to the right.

13-0 Sussex

With Oxford’s offense still struggling to move the ball, Sussex got another drive before the end of the first half. Kington passed the ball to Adam Fishlock, catching it over the top of the Saints defender and adding their 3rd touchdown in quick succession.

Stone added the extra point and the Saints found themselves going into the 2nd half with a sudden 0-19 deficit.


Throwback – Photo from a previous game against Sussex

Early in the 3rd quarter, the Thunder extended their lead on 2nd down with Ben Chukwu-onu running up the sideline for a 35 yard touchdown.

Stone kicked the extra point through the uprights.


Sam Crowther gave the team a boost intercepting Kington for a 2nd time, forcing a change of possession. With the offense back on the field and James Walter at quarterback, they kept the ball on the ground and moved it well against the Sussex defense.

Good running from Tony Glover, Rob Johnson and Antonious Athanasiou gave the Saints several first downs. Walter charged through from 6 yards out to give Oxford their first touchdown. Rookie kicker Dean Fuller added the extra point.


The Saints defense slowed down the Thunder on their next drive, with Dean Fuller breaking up a pass on 3rd down, forcing Sussex to punt the ball away.

Another march by the offense took Oxford across the field with Glover getting the brunt of the work. From 4 yards out, Walter ran in for his 2nd touchdown and Fuller kicked the extra point.

26-14 Sussex

Oxford’s defense continued to be a strong force throughout the rest of the game, only allowing one score in the 2nd half and forcing Sussex to punt the ball away on back to back possessions.

The Saints were striving to make a comeback and on their next drive, Walter completed a 30 yard pass to Sam Armstrong but they were unable to convert for another first down. On 4th down, Walter attempted a pass into the endzone but it was intercepted and returned for 20 yards.

Sussex’s offense took a knee on their final drive to run down the remaining clock time, securing their 5th win of the season.


RB Antonious Athanasiou in previous game against Sussex – Photo by Jamie Stancombe

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With a competitive 1st quarter, the Saints fell behind when Sussex scored three touchdowns in quick succession and Oxford were unable to respond with any of their own.

Although a loss, the Saints can find positives in their performance with the defense holding Sussex to just one touchdown in the 2nd half. The defense delivered momentum swings with 3 interceptions and forced the high-powered Sussex offense to punt multiple times.

The offense showed their power once again with the running game, crossing the length of the field on back to back drives and adding 2 touchdowns from James Walter. Despite the surge in the 4th quarter, the Saints were unable to get out of the 0-26 hole.

The special teams unit were on form once again, with rookie Dean Fuller hitting both extra points and good kickoffs. Travis Folkes delivered more key tackles on special teams to limit returns by Sussex.


The Saints have a week for training and then travel back to Brighton for round 3 against the Sussex Thunder on 4th June.

View the full 2017 schedule.


Game Preview: Oxford Saints @ Sussex Thunder – 21 May 17

Saints travel to conference leaders Sussex Thunder in rematch

This Sunday, the Oxford Saints (2-1) will take on the high flying Sussex Thunder (4-0) at Brighton Rugby Club.

The teams last met in Oxford’s season opener at Tilsley Park, where the Thunder claimed a decisive 35-8 victory. The Saints have since bounced back with a 13-6 win against the former premier side South Wales Warriors and a strong 35-14 showing against the Ouse Valley Eagles.

RB James Walter – Photo by Gareth Brown

The Thunder meanwhile have not yet lost a game in the 2017 season, but have been run close in their two clashes with the South Wales Warriors. Both games saw Sussex eventually pulling ahead in the 2nd half.

With their 14-8 and 17-6 wins against the Warriors, the Saints will be seeing this as a sign that they can be beaten and will look to avoid another one-sided affair like the season opener…

Alongside preparations for Sussex, the Saints have also added additional players to their roster including returning veterans Mike Oluwole (RB) and Jonny Dover (DB).

Oluwole will fit back in with Oxford’s strong variety of running backs whilst Dover will provide a much needed boost to the defensive backs, especially against the pass-heavy Sussex Thunder.

LB Sam Stancombe – By Chris Janes

The game this weekend will be the 1st of two consecutive games against the Thunder, with another visit to Brighton taking place on Sunday 4th June.

Due to the five team conference structure, the Saints are playing Sussex and Ouse Valley three times instead of the usual two. Sussex are currently #1 in the SFC Central with Oxford sitting at #2. With both teams aiming for the playoffs, a win for Oxford in either of these upcoming games would be significant.

Game Details

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Brighton Rugby Football Club
Waterhall Road

Kick off 14:30 PM

Oxford 35 – 14 Ouse Valley | Game Summary



On Sunday 7th May the Oxford Saints claimed a 35-14 victory against the Ouse Valley Eagles. A dominant display, the Saints entertained their home crowd with a much needed win at Tilsley Park.

Defenses for both teams opened the game strong, with George Wright and Martin Fitzpatrick tackling the Eagles behind the line for a loss of yards. With neither the Saints or Eagles able to pick up a 1st down on offense, both sides exchanged punts in their opening drives.
Oxford were first to strike with running back James Walter sprinting across the field on 3rd down for a 44-yard touchdown run. Dean Fuller’s extra point kick was deflected, but the Saints took an early 6-0 lead.

James Walter 44-yard TD Rush


Oxford kicked the ball back to the Eagles after the score and veteran Jonny Dover tackled the kick returner on their own 11-yard line, forcing the Eagles to have a long distance to go for a score of their own.

A veteran player for the Saints who had missed the previous games this season, Dover fitted seamlessly back into the game plan.

Jonny Dover kickoff tackle – Photo by Gareth Brown

On 1st down, the Ouse Valley quarterback Jacob Corbett passed the ball over the middle and was intercepted by linebacker Calvin Holmes, forcing a change of possession and bringing the Saints offense back onto the field.

With good field position, the Saints seemed poised to score until quarterback Ben Denton was chased down from behind for a sack and loss of 14 yards. Another tackle for a loss and a 5-yard penalty against Oxford hampered them further, followed by the Eagles’ Harry Rackham intercepting a pass and returning it a huge 51 yards before being brought down.

With the Eagles back on offense, the Saints needed to hold strong and were aided with 2 tackles from Spencer Duffy for minimal gains.

On 4th down, Corbett looked to the air and hit receiver Richard Batten over the middle for a 28-yard touchdown pass. Mike Turner kicked the extra point through the uprights.

Quarterback Jacob Corbett – Photo by Gareth Brown


The Eagles defense continued to put pressure on the Saints with Ben Denton taking his second sack, this time for a 4-yard loss.

A pass attempt on 3rd down intended for Sam Armstrong was tipped up into the air and snatched by former Saints player Mike Turner, returning it 24 yards and just short of the endzone. Corbett handed the ball off to running back Kalaba Chibwe who charged through the middle for the touchdown from 5 yards out.

Another kick from Turner extended the visitors lead to 14-6.

With Denton side-lined with a possible concussion, 2nd year quarterback Kyle Swann took over. Runs by Walter and Tony Glover combined for a 1st down, but a pitch to Glover was off target and the fumbled ball was recovered by Ouse Valley for a 12-yard loss and change of possession.

Running back Tony Glover – Photo by Gareth Brown

With the Eagles in scoring distance following the turnover, they were unable to take advantage and find the endzone. The Oxford defensive-line continued to be a formidable force with Conor Whitehouse and George Wright landing tackles for a loss of yards on back to back plays.

On 4th down, the Eagles attempted a field goal but Turner’s kick missed to the left of his target.

Oxford’s coaching staff sent in a different formation on their next drive and put Walter at quarterback. The Saints kept the ball on the ground and alternated between runs from Walter, Antonious Athanasiou and Glover.

This was evidently wearing down the Eagles defense and they struggling to find an answer. Picking up multiple first downs, the Saints drove the length of the field before Glover ran over the line for a 22-yard touchdown.

RB James Walter – Photo by Gareth Brown

Looking to tie up the game before the end of the half, the Saints went for a 2 point conversion. Walter passed the ball to tight end Richard Bloomer, who hauled in the catch and kept his feet in bounds for a successful score.


Oxford came out strong to open the 2nd half with another sustained drive across the field. The Saints run game continued to impress and brought them to the 2 yard line, with Glover punching the ball in for his 2nd touchdown of the day.

Fuller added the extra point and the Saints reclaimed the lead.

Kicker Dean Fuller – Photo by Gareth Brown

21-14 OXFORD

The Eagles suffered another setback when the ball was fumbled on the first play of their drive and recovered by Oxford’s Spencer Duffy. Close to their opponents endzone, the Saints had another chance to add a quick score but a pass from Swann was intercepted by Turner, making a one handed grab to reel the ball in before he hit the ground.

Despite the much needed turnover, the Eagles continued to struggle on offense and had made little progress throughout the game so far with most of their big plays coming from turnovers by their defense. The Saints defense meanwhile remained unmovable, with tackles from Wright, Duffy and Dean Bryan.

QB Kyle Swann – Photo by Gareth Brown

Oxford hit back again with their powerful run game as Walter, Glover and Athanasiou moved the ball down the field. After picking up a fresh set of downs, Glover added his 3rd touchdown of the day from 3 yards out.

Fuller’s kick extended the margin.

28-14 OXFORD

With the game now in the 4th quarter, time was running out for the Eagles but the Oxford defense stayed on form. Defensive tackle Johnny Little sacked Corbett for a 2-yard loss followed by Wright and Holmes bringing down Chibwe for another 6-yard loss.

Oxford’s defensive line struck again on their next drive with Great Britain Women’s player Monica Lewinska forcing the ball carrier to fumble in the backfield, which was quickly recovered by Duffy for the turnover.

Calvin Holmes & George Wright – Photo by Gareth Brown

The efforts from the defense gifted the Saints offense great field position again and Swann connected with Walter for a 17-yard gain and another 1st down.

Glover finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for his 3rd score of the day with Fuller remaining solid adding the extra point.

Running back Tony Glover – Photo by Gareth Brown

35-14 OXFORD

With the game closing out, last ditch attempts by the Eagles to get their offense moving and add a consolation score were shut down.

Rookie linebacker Mark Wilkinson gained his first career sack, dropping the quarterback for a 5-yard loss and on their final drive, pass attempts for the Eagles fell incomplete with rookie Leon Byfield narrowly missing an interception.



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A strong performance from the offense, defense and special teams unit saw the Saints claim a much needed win over the Eagles. With Sundays victory, Oxford jump into 2nd place in the conference with a 2-1 record, behind the 3-0 Sussex Thunder.

With miscues in the first half leading to two interceptions, this gave the Eagles good field position and put the pressure on the Saints defense who put on a dominating show. The offense came out firing in the 2nd half with 21 unanswered points.


The offensive unit showed their power with 250 yards and another strong display in their ground game, utilising a range of runners to wear down the Eagles defense. James Walter continued his streak of 100+ yard games and claimed 147 yards with 1 touchdown.

Fellow runner Tony Glover looked on top form and added 3 touchdowns, with full back Antonious Athanasiou also picking up a score.

Tight end Richard Bloomer hauled in a crucial grab for a 2 point conversion to tie the game before the end of the first half.


The defensive unit were the stars this week, with the defensive line continuing to wreak havoc against Oxford’s opponents.

With 2 sacks, 1 interception and 2 fumble recoveries, the defense only conceded 10 rushing yards and 44 passing yards.

Oxford defensive line coach Toby Durant praised the defensive unit’s performance:

The defense were electric all day and but for one play were flawless. We knew we’d have a tough job pressuring the Ouse Valley passing game but we were able to create chaos up front with the play-calling and some strong performances across the defensive line

By holding their ground game in check we really forced their hand, and once they became one dimensional it was a lot easier for our guys to tee off on the quarterback


The special teams unit made it a long day for the Eagles with rookie Dean Fuller repeatedly kicking the ball deep out the back of the endzone several times. Jonny Dover and Travis Folkes delivered key tackles on kickoff to limit return attempts by the Eagles.

Next game

The Saints have a week for training and then travel to the Sussex Thunder on 21st May.

View the full 2017 schedule.

Game Preview: Oxford Saints VS Ouse Valley Eagles – 7th May

Saints Face The Eagles For first time on 7th May

With Oxford playing American Football since 1983, the relatively new Eagles were formed through the merger of the Milton Keynes Pathfinders and the Bedfordshire Blue Raiders in 2013.

In 2016 they ended the season with a 4-6 record in the Division 1 Midlands conference. They were then relocated to the recently created Division 1 Central conference alongside Oxford for 2017.

Season so far

Ouse Valley have had a strong start to the year with wins on the road against both South Wales Warriors and Solent Thrashers.

They claimed a narrow 14-12 win over the Warriors to open their season and then followed it with a 27-19 win against the Thrashers.

Photo from

Oxford meanwhile suffered a 35-8 defeat at the hands of the Sussex Thunder in their first game, who are sitting comfortably at the top of the table with a 3-0 record.

The Saints earned their first victory in a 13-6 contest against South Wales, in a game where defenses dominated and Oxford’s powerful run game secured the win.

This Sunday

Welcoming the Eagles to Tilsley Park, the Saints will be looking to move to 2-1 for the season and give Ouse Valley their first loss.

With Oxford’s coaching staff analysing footage from the Eagles, stopping their spread offense will be a major factor and the Saints defense will likely be tested in the air all day long.

Defensive line coach Toby Durant said:

“It was a long preseason, with a lot of adjustments to make, but I think we’ve got a really good chance of going far this season”

“The first two games were a big test of just how far we’ve come from last season, and while the Sussex game was humbling I think it was exactly what we needed. This season won’t be easy, but we got a good win in Wales and I am confident going into the game with Ouse Valley that we can do it again”

“The players are adjusting well to the step up in competition. There are no more weeks off and easy games. No walkovers. We go to work every Sunday and get a little bit better”

Turner & Dover

Featuring on the Eagle’s roster for 2017 is Saints veteran Mike Turner, being utilised as a kicker and defensive back. Turner had played for Oxford for several years and caught an interception in 2016’s Division II Final against Cambridge, where the Saints completed their undefeated season.

Meanwhile, Oxford’s defense is being bolstered with the return of veteran defender Jonny Dover. A player with many talents, Dover has previously been used at defensive back, kick returner and running back.

Jonny Dover – Photo By Chris Janes

Tilsley Park

Beginning the 2nd year of their partnership with Tilsley Park, the Saints have one of the best venues for American Football in the UK. There will be music, commentary, covered seating and a licensed bar.

The team are also pleased to confirm the return of Buffalo Grill, providing hot food before during and after the contest.

Admission for this game is free, with a 14:30 kick-off.

Tilsley Park
Dunmore Road
OX14 1PU

Saints Home Venue – Photo by Tilsley Park

Oxford 13 – 6 South Wales | Game Summary

Saints Claim First Win Of 2017

On Sunday 23rd April, Oxford took on their old foes the South Wales Warriors and came home with a 13-6 Division 1 victory.

Starting in place of quarterback Ben Denton was rookie Marcus Alphonso, playing his first season of senior football and his first start in a regular season game.

The Saints received the opening kickoff and began with the ball but were unable to make any progress. Running back James Walter was halted immediately at the line for no gain and two incomplete passes forced the offense to punt the ball away.

Rookie QB Marcus Alphonso – By Chris Janes

With quarterback Dean Jackson on the field for the Warriors, they picked up a first down on the ground and a 17-yard pass gave them another. Their drive came to an end after an incomplete pass and a fumble on 4th down.

Towards the end of the 1st quarter, the Saints were moving the ball well with hard running from Walter. The team marched across the field picking up several first downs. Tight end Richard Bloomer nearly hauled in a great pass from Alphonso in the corner of the endzone but failed to maintain control.

The Saints still managed to cap off the drive with a score as Walter charged in from 2 yards out for the touchdown.

James Walter 2-yard TD Rush

Rookie Dean Fuller kicked the extra point which was deflected by a Warriors defender but fortunately stayed on course and went through the uprights.

7-0 Oxford

Defensive units for both teams continued to dominate the momentum of the game, with both holding strong to prevent either from scoring. The Saints hoped to extend their narrow lead with two field goal attempts from 36 and 31-yards out, but both kicks sailed wide of their target.

The 3rd quarter began with neither team’s offense able to move the ball. Incomplete passes from the Saints were hampering their ability to put together a solid drive and the Warriors offense struggled under pressure from Oxford’s strong defensive line, featuring veterans George Wright, Conor Whitehouse and Deke Morton.

LB Graeme Taylor – By Jamie Stancombe

The home team attempted a field goal of their own from 29-yards out to put some points on the board, but Nate Webb’s kick was wide and missed it’s mark.

With both sides being plagued by penalties, it was a back and forth affair for the remainder of the 3rd quarter. The Warriors had several opportunities to score but multiple dropped passes and a touchdown called back for a penalty gave the Saints relief whilst frustrating the South Wales sideline.

George Wright 7-yard Sack on Dean Jackson

The Oxford defense continued to put on a strong display against Jackson and his offense, with George Wright being a dominating force and landing a big sack for a 7-yard loss.

In the 4th quarter, runners Ryan Kingshott and James Walter advanced the ball into scoring distance and Walter hammered it in for his second touchdown of the day, this time from 5-yards out.

James Walter 5-yard TD Rush

Dean Fuller attempted the extra point but the ball was not set in place. The kicking unit scrambled to make a play and pass it to an open player, which would have given them 2 points, but were unsuccessful.

13-0 Oxford

In the final minute of the game, the Warriors were finding success in the air with quarterback Maxime Ayoul now under centre. On 2nd down, he completed a pass to Stewart Bicker for a 24-yard gain and their only touchdown of the day.

Nate Webb lined up for the extra point but it hit the cross bar and floated into the hands of safety Martin Fitzpatrick, who was unable to return the ball to the Warriors endzone for a potential score.

Warriors Receiver – By Jamie Stancombe

To win the game, South Wales needed to successfully recover an on-side kick, score a touchdown and then a 2 point conversion. With only seconds left on the clock, their chances were ended when Saints defender Misha Brooks recovered the onside kick attempt, securing possession for Oxford’s offense.

Not looking to take any chances against the Warriors defense, quarterback Kyle Swann kneeled out the remainder of the game to give Oxford their first victory of the season against a former-premiership opponent.

FINAL SCORE: 13-6 Oxford


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With defense playing a key role, both teams had very different game plans.

The Saints turned to their reliable running game and chose to wear down their opponents on the ground. With James Walter and Ryan Kingshott getting the bulk of the work, with American running back Tony Glover not kitting up for this fixture. Oxford picked up 196 yards on the ground and 2 touchdowns from Walter, with 6 yards on only 11 pass attempts.

Oxford Head Coach Andrew Day was pleased with the win but believed his side had been lucky and committed too many simple mistakes.

“South Wales dropped quite a few passes and on another day they could have easily won it. I’m grateful to get out of here with a victory” – Head Coach Andrew Day – Oxford Saints

The Warriors were a pass-heavy offense which showed with their 45 pass attempts, with only 15 completions. They picked up a solid 208 passing yards and a last-minute touchdown, but suffered from multiple dropped passes and their running backs failed to perform at the same level as the Saints, along with being under heavy pressure from the Oxford defensive line.

Warriors Head Coach Geraint Roberts was similarly frustrated with his team’s performance and an abundance of costly errors.

“We didn’t execute. We thought we had a game plan, it’s just the players didn’t execute” – Head Coach Geraint Roberts – South Wales Warriors

Commenting on the damage done by Oxford’s James Walter, who picked up 156 yards and 2 touchdowns against his defense, Coach Roberts added:

“We knew what he (Walter) had coming in to the game and everyone has seen his highlights and he did well in the Great Britain trials last year. But we tackled poorly.”

Next game

The Saints have a week for training and return to action Sunday 7th May, when they host the Ouse Valley Eagles at Tilsley Park.

View the full 2017 schedule.

Game Preview: Oxford Saints @ South Wales Warriors – 23rd April

On Sunday 23rd April the Saints head to Wales to take on the Warriors

After Oxford suffered a 35-8 defeat in game 1 of the season last weekend to the Sussex Thunder, this Sunday will give the Saints a chance to redeem themselves.

Now competing in Division 1 following promotion after their championship season in 2016, Oxford will be looking to show they can compete against the tougher competition.

It’s been a long time since the Saints took on the South Wales Warriors. The last game was a preseason friendly in April 2012, where the Warriors claimed a 21-14 victory.

Photo by Chris Janes

Warriors Drop Down From Premiership

Whilst the Saints were battling it out in Division 2 in 2016, the Warriors were competing in Premier South but have since requested voluntary relegation. Citing low player numbers and a risk of being able to complete another premiership season, the Warriors made the difficult decision to drop down from the UK’s top tier.

With their relegation approved, it came with the condition that South Wales will have a two year post-season ban. With playoff football impossible for the Welsh side, they will be looking to show that their program is on the mend and that they can still give teams a challenge.

In the first game of their season, they suffered a narrow 14-12 defeat at home against the Ouse Valley Eagles.

Photo by Rob Dummer – From


With a rough start to begin their Division 1 campaign, the Saints are in need of a victory to prove they are here to compete.

With the team studying game film from Oxford’s loss in week 1, they will be striving to fix their mistakes and provide a much sterner test for the South Wales Warriors.

Stay tuned on Saints social media for score updates on Sunday. Kick-off at Llanharan Rugby Football Club is 14:30.

After the game this weekend, the Saints are next in action at home on 7th May against the Ouse Valley Eagles.