Category: Game Previews & Reports

Preseason #2 Recap – Oxford VS Leicester

ON SUNDAY 2nd April the Saints took on the Leicester Falcons in their 2nd preseason test of 2017

Both teams were recently promoted to Division I following undefeated seasons in 2016, with the Falcons taking the northern title and the Saints named the southern champions. This game was a good opportunity for the two sides to prepare for regular league games and test their players.

With Oxford’s former quarterback Destin Maulding back in the US, up and coming quarterback Marcus Alphonso was named starter for this game. Playing his first season in senior football, it was the first time he had took to the field with the starting offense.

Rookie QB Marcus Alphonso – By Gareth Brown

Running back Tony Glover set up excellent field position after returning the opening kickoff 64-yards to the Falcons’ 20-yard line. After some short runs, Alphonso released a deep ball into the corner of the endzone which was on course for his first career score but fell incomplete.

The drive still ended with success from veteran James Walter running into the endzone from 8-yards out for the touchdown.

RB Tony Glover – By Gareth Brown

The defense held the Falcons attack at bay for 2 consecutive drives with tackles for a loss by defensive ends George Wright and Conor Whitehouse, and linebacker Sam Stancombe.

A star performer for the day was Leicester’s American quarterback Troy Lee, who quickly demonstrated his passing skills picking up 2 first downs in the air. The Falcons found the endzone when a backwards pass was fumbled but recovered and ran in for the score.

With returning quarterback Ben Denton back under centre for Oxford, the Saints were slowly moving the ball with Walter picking up a first down on a 17-yard catch and run. On 4th down Denton was sacked for a 9-yard loss, forcing a turnover on downs.

WR Lee Lowry – By Jamie Stancombe

The Saints answered back with a 10-yard sack from Conor Whitehouse on the first play of Leicester’s next drive but they recovered with a 36-yard touchdown pass on a 8 play drive.

Before the end of the 1st half, Falcons QB Troy Lee and his receivers continued to dominate in the air before punching the ball over the goalline on a 3-yard run.

21-6 HALF TIME

With the Falcons beginning with the ball in the 3rd quarter, linebacker Calvin Holmes landed a big sack on Troy Lee for an 11-yard loss but they shook it off and continued to move the ball well on the following plays.

QB Troy Lee sacked by LB Calvin Holmes – By Gareth Brown

With frequent rotation on the Saints defense, the defenders gained valuable experience against a heavy passing attack but couldn’t keep the Falcons from reaching the endzone, setting up an 11-yard touchdown run.

On offense, Oxford had difficulties getting their passing game going and two consecutive drives failed to pick up 1st downs and resulted in punting the ball back to Leicester.

The Falcons meanwhile continued to impress in the air, picking up two 1st downs and a 45-yard touchdown pass. They added another passing score on their following drive against the rookie-heavy defense, pulling ahead further with a 41-6 lead.

QB Troy Lee – By Jamie Stancombe

Experimenting with a different formation, the Saints offense found success on the ground and drove the length of the field with running from James Walter and Tony Glover, before Walter sprinted through for a 16-yard touchdown. Rookie kicker Dean Fuller added the extra point.

The defense looked like they were going to hold the Falcons on 4th down and force a turnover, until Troy Lee connected with his receiver for another touchdown pass for 22-yards.

RB Antonious Athanasiou – By Gareth Brown

The Saints hit back immediately with Antonios Athanasiou on two back to back run plays for 26-yards and then charged through for a 35-yard touchdown.

49-21 FINAL SCORE

Download Statistics PDF

Another preseason loss for the Saints, though there were plenty of opportunities for rookies to get on the field and be tested against a high power offense with the ability to pass well.

Oxford were able to rotate through their quarterbacks including first year player Marcus Alphonso and experiment with different personnel groups, but failed to find momentum again until late in the 4th quarter.

RB Taylor Brown – By Jamie Stancombe

Meanwhile the Falcons impressed throughout with quarterback Troy Lee remaining under centre for the entirety of the game, along with a dangerous group of receivers finding the endzone in all 4 quarters. Running back Taylor Brown and receiver Joe Brammer also had big performances and multiple touchdowns.

The Saints now have a training week to implement lessons learned and identify the starting line-ups for the season opener against the Sussex Thunder on 16th April at Tilsley Park.

You can view the full 2017 schedule here.

Preseason #2: Oxford Saints VS Leicester Falcons

ON 2ND APRIL, THE SAINTS RUN OUT AT TILSLEY PARK FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2017 IN A HOME FRIENDLY AGAINST THE LEICESTER FALCONS

The two sides haven’t met on the field since the 2014 season, when the Saints claimed 2 wins over the Falcons. Several years later, both teams were crowned champions with the Falcons winning Division II North and the Saints claiming victory in Division I South.

With Oxford and Leicester promoted to Division I for 2017, this friendly game will provide an excellent opportunity for both sides to gain momentum before the regular season begins.

Saints enter the field in 2016 Division II South Final – Photo by Chris Janes

Whilst the players and coaches will be looking to use this game as a test for the forthcoming season, there will be some who will view this game to determine who would have been the undisputed Division II Champion, should a North VS South final had been played.

The successes of previous years will play little outcome on this match however, as the Falcons are favoured to achieve back-to-back promotions, following an extraordinary 2016 season where they led the country in points scored (497) and points conceded (21), averaging 49.7 points per game and securing 9 shut outs on the way to their 13-0 perfect season and beating the Newcastle Vikings in the northern final.

The Saints also claimed a 13-0 perfect season, capped off with a victory over the Cambridgeshire Cats in the southern final. Oxford will be looking to improve on their preseason performance at the premiership Farnham Knights on the 19th March and get back to winning ways at Tilsley Park.

Saints vs Falcons in 2014

Unlike the Farnham game however, which saw a good blend of veterans and rookies take the field together, Head Coach Andrew Day will likely be treating this game as close to a league fixture as possible, with the starting units expected to get a lot of work.

This fixture will also give fans their first chance to see the new Saints uniform for the 2017 season, provided by ALPHA Performance.

The Saints backroom staff are also looking to continue developing the fan experience at Tilsley Park, with music and commentary throughout the game, and the return of the extremely popular Buffalo Grill providing hot food before, during and after the contest.

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

Saints Home Venue – Photo by Tilsley Park

2017 REGULAR SEASON

The Oxford Saints regular season begins on 16th April at home, against the SFC1 Central favourites, Sussex Thunder.

The Saints will also be facing the South Wales Warriors, Solent Thrashers and Ouse Valley Eagles.

View the full 2017 schedule.

Preseason #1: Oxford Saints @ Farnham Knights

ON 19TH MARCH, THE SAINTS TAKE ON FARNHAM IN A FRIENDLY FOR THEIR FIRST TEST OF 2017

The knights are a competitive team in the Premier division, the UK’s highest tier. It’s been a few years since the two sides met so this will prove a good opportunity for Head Coach Andrew Day to see his side in action against a top team.

Saints vs Knights in 2013

Oxford last met Farnham in 2013 when the league was split into 2 divisions, Premier and National. Competing in the National Division, the Saints took a 26-2 loss against the Knights at home but clinched a narrow 8-6 victory on the road.

In 2016, the Knights competed against the likes of the London Warriors & London Blitz, widely considered to be the top 2 teams in the UK. The Knights ended the 2016 season with a 4-6 record.

The preseason friendly will kick off at 14:00 pm on Sunday 19th March at Farnham RUFC, Monkton Lane, Surrey, GU9 9ND.

Following a championship season for Oxford in 2016, the Saints have now been promoted to Division 1 and will be facing a tough test against the premiership Knights, but it will demonstrate the level that players need to aspire to if they wish to compete in their new division.

Saints defeat Cambridge in 2016 Div 2 Final

With much of the team returning for 2017, the Saints are further strengthened with another large intake of new players. Some of them have experience at either senior or university level, along with a number of other promising rookies. Keep a look out for a progress report on preseason training soon.

PRESEASON #2 VS LEICESTER FALCONS

After the Farnham game, the team will have 2 weeks to review and analyse the footage in preparation for the 2nd presason game. On 2nd April, the Saints will host the 2016 Division II North Champions, the Leicester Falcons.

The game will be held at Oxford’s home ground Tilsley Park with a 14:30 Kick-off. More details will be shared closer to the event.

The regular season schedule will be available here soon.

Saints vs Falcons in 2013

CHAMPIONS: Oxford Defeat Cambridge In Division Final

Score

Team1234TotalOutcome
Oxford Saints6110724Win
Cambridgeshire Cats00202Loss

Photography courtesy of Chris Janes & Jamie Stancombe.

The undefeated season was converted into the perfect season, with a decisive 24-2 victory in the Division II Southern Final against the Cambridgeshire Cats.

Following a stunning season for the history books, the Saints have looked on form throughout the year. The regular season saw them challenged by the Bristol Apache, but Oxford came out on top in both fixtures. The road to the championship saw Oxford and Bristol meet again in the semi finals, with the Saints claiming a confident 40-19 victory.

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As their first appearance in a championship game since their winning season in 2006, the majority of the team were experiencing their first time in a national final.

Meanwhile the Cambridgeshire Cats had a bumpy season and were considered the underdogs going into this game, but were quietly confident after dispatching the #1 seed, the London Hornets, in the semi finals.

With a large group of travelling supporters, the Saints came onto the field under a huge round of cheers and applause.

 

Game Begins

Following the coin toss, the Cats began with the ball on offense. The Saints were looking solid on defense but the running back was able to break a tackle and pick up 17 yards and a 1st down on the carry, before being brought down by Martin Fitzpatrick.

Tackles from defensive end George Wright and linebacker Dean Bryan prevented another 1st down, along with a 5 yard penalty against the Cats, forcing them to punt the ball away.

Oxford’s offense led by quarterback Destin Maulding showed their abilities immediately. Star running back James Walter ran for 32 yards and a 1st down, with fellow runners Tony Glover and Ryan Kingshott contributing for another 1st.

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A costly penalty against the Cats pushed them back 14 yards and gave the Saints excellent field position. On the next play, Maulding rolled out and passed the ball in to Walter for a 14 yard touchdown.

Sam Fielden attempted to add on the extra point but the kick was blocked.

Saints take early 6-0 lead on their opening drive

The Cats looked to retaliate but struggled to find progress against a sturdy Saints defense.

Linebacker Spencer Duffy brought down the ball carrier for just a 2 yard gain, with George Wright added a tackle for no yards on the next play.

Cornerback Misha Brooks sealed the deal when he broke up a pass attempt on 3rd down, leaving the Cats with no choice but to punt.

With the offense back on the field, Maulding kept the ball himself and ran for 19 yards and a 1st down. On the next play, he threw a brilliant pass deep downfield to wide receiver Ali Galbraith, hauling in the ball for a 31 yard gain.

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The Saints were unable to finish the drive with a score, as what looked like a guaranteed touchdown pass intended for tight end Richard Bloomer was broken up by a Cats defender on 4th down.

Despite turning over the ball on 4th down, Oxford’s defense remained on point and George Wright landed a sack on the quarterback Mark Rivett for a 2 yard loss.

After failing to get their offense moving and unable to pick up a 1st down, they punted the ball away.

The Saints picked up two 1st downs from Walter and Glover but found themselves unable to convert for another 1st.

On 4th down, Fielden lined up from 35 yards out and kicked a successful field goal for 3 points.

9-0 Saints

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The Cats offense were beginning to make progress on their next drive with a big 18 yard run for a 1st down.

A few more short run attempts saw them gain 2 further hard-fought 1st downs, but a tackle for a loss of 3 yards by David Anthony and a 5 yard penalty against the Cats left them unable to convert again.

On 4th down, Cats kicker Steven Bright lined up for a field goal attempt from 37 yards out but was unable to hit his target.

The Saints offense went back to work and moved the ball well against the Cats defense. Keeping the ball on the ground, Maulding handed it off to Walter, Kingshott and Glover who each picked up 1st downs.

With Walter using his speed to get around defenders, Glover was a weapon who could run straight up the middle for large gains.

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Glover picked up 18 yards and 16 yards on back to back carries, finishing off most runs with a big hit on the defender coming in to tackle him.

The Cats struggled to answer the powerful running of Walter and Glover & on 2nd down, Walter out paced his defender and charged in for a 14 yard touchdown run, aided by blocking from receiver Ali Galbraith.

Head coach Andrew Day called for a 2 point conversion attempt and Antonios Athanasiou ran the ball up the middle untouched for the extra score.

17-0 Saints

Near the end of the 1st half, the Cats faced a determined Oxford defense and a joint tackle from defensive tackle Deke Morton and Dean Bryan stopped the runner for just a 3 yard gain.

Wright added a tackle behind the line for a loss of a yard and on 3rd down, cornerback Mike Turner intercepted a pass from Rivett to put a stop to the Cats drive.

To close out the 1st half, the Cats defense got a much needed boost when Maulding was chased down in the backfield for a sack and a loss of 14 yards, bringing up the half time whistle shortly afterwards.

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2nd Half

A rejuvenated Cats defense came out to begin the 2nd half and were able to stop the powerful Saints offense in their tracks, forcing Oxford to punt the ball for the first time of the game.

Mistakes by the Saints defense were costly, giving up 25 yards and three automatic 1st downs.

As the Cats profited from mistakes by the Saints, the tables were turned when a ball was snapped high and left Rivett scrambling in the back field to recover the fumble. He was chased by multiple defenders and linebacker Spencer Duffy brought him down for a loss of 21 yards.

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On 3rd down, the Cats managed to redeem themselves and their running back picked up 23 yards and brought them within field goal distance.

Steven Bright lined up to attempt the 32 yard kick but the ball went to the right and missed his target.

With the Saints offense back on the field, Walter was tackled behind the line for a loss of a yard on 1st down.

On the 2nd play, the Cats defense closed down on Walter in the back field and he attempted to pitch the ball back to Maulding. The ball went high and rolled into the endzone.

Although Maulding was able to recover the errant ball, the Cats claimed a 2 point safety with Dean Caldbeck on the tackle.

17-2 Saints

Following the safety, Fielden kicked the ball back to the Cats and a 35 yard return set them up with good field position.

They ran for 13 yards and a 1st down but Duffy halted their progress with two back to back tackles, one for a loss of 3 yards. A pass attempt on 3rd down was tipped by Bryan, who got his hands to the ball and knocked it off course.

The Cats were unable to convert on 4th down and turned the ball over to the Saints.

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Maulding picked up a 1st down on the ground but in evading defenders, he suffered a pulled hamstring and came off the field a play later. The injury forced backup quarterback Kyle Swann to take command of the offense, playing his rookie year with the Saints.

Swann kept his composure and proceeded to hand the ball to Glover, who ran for a 1st down. On 3rd down, a handoff intended for Walter was fumbled to the floor but Walter was able to dive to the ground and recover it.

On 4th down the Saints punted the ball back to the Cats.

Throughout the 4th quarter, a defensive battle saw both teams exchanging blows but neither able to find the endzone. With quarterback Maulding remaining on the sideline with injury, Swann steadied the ship.

The Oxford defense continued to be a dominating force holding the Cats to minimal yards on the ground, with Wright and Duffy playing leading roles in the middle of the defense.

In the air, the Saints pass defenders continued to cover their opponents well, with Rivett unable to connect with his receivers.

The final score of the game was delivered by running back Kingshott. He picked up 13 yards on the first play of the drive followed by a 38 yard run up the middle for the touchdown, sealing the win for the Saints.

Fielden added the extra point kick.

With another defensive stand to close out the game, the Saints defense remained dominant and kept the Cats from scoring throughout.

24-2 Saints – Final Score

Summary

A strong display on both sides of the ball, the Saints picked up 390 yards on offense, 350 of those were rushing yards and 54 in the air.

The ground and pound strategy from Walter, Glover and Kingshott proved unstoppable.

– James Walter was named Game MVP for gaining 126 yards on 18 carries with 1 TD. He also caught 1 pass for 14 yards and a 2nd TD.

– Teammate Tony Glover picked up 96 yards on 13 carries, with Kingshott picking up 91 yards on 7 carries and 1 TD.

The defense had their performance of the year and held the Cats to just 157 yards on offense, breaking down to 98 on the ground and 61 in the air.

– Defensive end George Wright claimed 8 solo tackles, 2 assists and 1 sack.

– Linebacker Dean Bryan and defensive captain claimed 5 solo tackles, 6 assists and deflected a pass.

final1

The Saints are now the undefeated champions of Division II South, with 13 wins and 0 losses, completing their first ‘perfect season’ in club history and their first championship win since 2006.

The Saints now have a few months to prepare and recruit before preseason begins for 2017, where they will be competing in Division I following their promotion.

Opponents and fixtures will be announced when available.

FINAL: Game Preview – Oxford VS Cambridgeshire

#UndefeatedOrDeath

Following victories against Cornwall and Bristol, Oxford find themselves in another national final.

This is the third time in the team’s long history that Oxford have made the final, and both of the previous occasions have seen the Saints carry the trophy off the field (1995, 2006).

So on Sunday they’ll take the field in Charles Lee stadium in Leeds to try and make it three-for-three.

Their opponents on the day will be the Cambridgeshire Cats, who came in to the playoffs seeded #6 with a 7-3 record, managed to collect the scalps of the Berkshire Renegades and their conference rivals the London Hornets on their way to the final.

Both teams manged to conceded less than 100 points throughout the regular season, showing just how important a solid defense is in this sport.

Highlight reels might be filled with spectacular offensive performances, but both teams have shown the importance of a solid defense on the way to the final.

Oxford and Cambridge have conceded less than 100 points through the regular season (with the Cats even shutting out the #1 seeded Hornets in the Semi-final).

With the Saints looking to close out a perfect season, this matchup reminds of Superbowl XLII where the New England Patriots perfect season.

As many NFL fans know, this was ended by the New York Giants, a team that had come in to the playoffs as a low seeded wildcard…

The Saints can be confident that they have prepared well for the game and will come out on to the field ready to face a tough opponent. Only one outcome will be on the Saints minds…

Remaining undefeated.

Chairman Andrew Peart Reflects On 2016 Season

Sunday 11th September sees the Saints travel to Leeds for what is the biggest game for the club in a decade…

Written by Chairman Andrew Peart

Being lucky enough to serve as Chairman during such exciting times is a massive honour for me & one I think about with a great deal of humility.

I feel humbled by the amount of hard work & dedication that has gone into the club, both on and off the field in all the years prior to (and during) my appointment.

Reaching a championship game is not a short term project, it takes years of work to create the right atmosphere and culture to achieve long term, sustainable success.

It is for these reasons that I think a great deal about those who laid the groundwork for this year.

A year that all of us lucky enough to be part of this organization are enjoying and will be able to remember for the rest of our lives.

Linebacker Sam Stancombe tackles a Shark receiver

The Saints are a club whose history is incredibly important to us & many people throughout many years are equally (much more so, in several cases) responsible.

We would not be in this final were it not for the late Roger Hedges, our former general manager. Roger’s, dedication and enthusiasm over many years set the foundations for a culture of football in Oxfordshire that we continue to reap the benefits of today.

We’re delighted that Roger’s memory lives on at the club through an award in his name and through the presence of our long time supporters and friends, Kelly and Pam Hedges.

BY JAMIE STANCOMBE - James Walter dives over the line for a touchdown

We would not be in this final were it not for Chris Janes. Chris, our former player, coordinator, head coach and now team photographer, has played an immense role in the building and maintaining of this club.

Without Chris, the past & present of this club would look dramatically different & we thank him for his contribution over so many years that gives us the opportunity to do what we’re about to do on Sunday.

We would not be in this final were it not for the exceptional people currently working at the club. We’re incredibly lucky to have such a knowledgeable, passionate and selfless coaching staff.

We fully appreciate the time, energy and sacrifice made by Andrew Day, Nick Wykes, Greg Kennedy, Michael Price, Toby Durant, Gordon Cutting & Chris Warren.

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An unbeaten (so far!) season is no coincidence & these coaches have given their all in attempting to achieve it.

The back room staff at the Saints go through a phenomenal amount of work in order to provide the optimal conditions for players to play, coaches to coach and games to go ahead.

Without James Dunstan, Graeme Taylor, George Wright, Sam Armstrong, Luke Fry, Chris Roberts, Peter Holtom, Michael Parker, Naomi Maycock and many others helping behind the scenes, we would not be in this final. Most crucially of course, to on-field success is the work of the players.

To reach a championship final requires a championship mentality, championship level training, championship preparation and championship talent.

With a roster close to 90 players, I’ll avoid name checking everyone, but we’re incredibly lucky to see the level of impact from players such as Dean Bryan, Stuart Cribbes, Ali Galbraith, James Walter, Ben Denton, Destin Maulding and countless others.

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So many people, over so many years, too numerous to mention, have contributed to us reaching this final on Sunday. We go into this game fully aware that we’re “Standing on the Shoulder of Giants”.

So for those mentioned above, others such as Steve Abbott, Steve Connor, John Farley, Martin Fitzpatrick, all those supporters who come week in, week out and everyone else who has put us in this incredible position & we would not be in this final without.. ..this game is for you.

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The Saints will face the Cambridgeshire Cats in the Division II South Final, on Sunday 11th September at John Charles Stadium, Leeds.