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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

Summary

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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 https://www.sites.google.com/site/southwaleswarriorsafc

OXFORD IN SEARCH OF FIRST WIN

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.

CURRENT STANDINGS

 

Oxford 8 – 35 Sussex | Game Summary

On EASTER SUNDAY, the Oxford Saints opened their division 1 campaign with a 35-8 loss to the Sussex thunder

Following promotion in 2016, this was the first contest of the regular season with both teams having a lot of history against each other.

Expected to be the toughest opponent the Saints will face in their conference this year, the Saints struggled to find the endzone until the 3rd quarter.

Minute silence for Roger Hedges – By Jamie Stancombe

Before kickoff, both teams and spectators observed a 1 minute silence in memory of Roger Hedges. As general manager of the Oxford Saints, Roger was a big part of the club and passed away in 2007.

The game on Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of his passing and his daughter Kelly Hedges was the guest of honour to perform the coin toss.

Video Highlights

GAME BEGINS

Starting with the ball, Oxford’s offense with returning quarterback Ben Denton in charge were halted immediately by Sussex defenders. Running backs James Walter and Tony Glover were both tackled for minimal gains and the Saints were forced to punt on their opening possession.

Oxford’s defense made an equally strong display and forced a punt, following tackles from defensive end George Wright and safety Martin Fitzpatrick.

RB Tony Glover – By Jamie Stancombe

On their next drive, Sussex took advantage of a 15-yard Oxford penalty which gave them good field position. On 3rd down, veteran quarterback Eber Kington made a deep a pass to receiver Adam Fishlock who was in space and reeled in the ball for a 25-yard touchdown. Danny Wallace kicked the extra point.

With Oxford’s offense still struggling to make yards against a tough Sussex defense, they continued to end drives on 4th down with a punt. Towards the end of the 1st quarter, Sussex attempted a field goal from 27-yards out but the kick from Danny Wallace went wide right.

The Thunder extended their lead in the 2nd quarter when running back Ben Chukwu-Onu sprinted up the sideline on the first play of the drive. He ran into the endzone untouched for a 67-yard score and another extra point from Wallace.

14-0 Sussex

Touchdown by WR Adam Fishlock – By Jamie Stancombe

Sussex continued to put pressure on the Saints and on 2nd down, a pass from Ben Denton was intercepted and returned for 25-yards, giving them good field position again.

Shortly after, Eber Kington completed another deep pass to Adam Fishlock who ran across the line for his 2nd touchdown of the day. Extra point from Wallace was good.

In the 3rd quarter, the Saints defense gained much needed momentum when linebacker Calvin Holmes intercepted a ball from Eber Kington and returned it 12-yards.

QB Ben Denton – By Jamie Stancombe

The offense with first year Marcus Alphonso now under centre were unable to capitalise on the forced turnover and gave the ball back to Sussex on 4th down.

Oxford then looked like they were going to force a turnover on 4th down themselves but Eber Kington showed his abilities once more, passing the ball into the hands of Daniel Branch for a 24-yard touchdown. Wallace remained consistent and added the extra point.

28-0 Sussex

Interception by Dan di Lucia – Photo by Jamie Stancombe

With Oxford desperate for a score of their own, first year quarterback Marcus Alphonso was intercepted and Dan di Lucia returned the ball all the way back for a 40-yard defensive touchdown. With another quick score and extra point kick, Sussex pulled ahead with a 35-0 lead.

Late in the 3rd quarter, Oxford rotated in 2nd year quarterback Kyle Swann. Running from Tony Glover and a pass to Sam Armstrong gave the Saints a 1st down. Swann then handed the ball off to Walter who broke through the Sussex defense behind blocking from Antonios Athanasiou and up the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown run.

Looking to cut the deficit, the Saints went for the 2 point conversion and Swann passed the ball to rookie receiver Andrey Kays for the extra points.

TE Sam Armstrong – By Chris Janes

35-8 Sussex

The 4th quarter saw both sides exchanging blows but neither were able to make it to the endzone. The Saints were finding their rhythm with longer drives gaining more yards, including a pass to Armstrong for a 22-yard gain.

Running from Walter and Glover added 1st downs but no scores.

Meanwhile, the Saints defense finished strong forcing back to back punts from Sussex but unfortunately the damage was already done.

Sussex 35-8 oxford – Final Score

LB Sam Stancombe – By Chris Janes

Summary

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On the ground, both teams gained similar yardage with the Saints gaining 151 and the Thunder 170. Both teams earned 12 first downs each but the main difference came in the air.

Veteran quarterback Eber Kington was 18-8-1 (attempts/completions/interceptions) on the day with 3 touchdown passes, 2 of them caught by Adam Fishlock. The Thunder added another score on the ground from Ben Chukwu-Onu

The Saints used all three of their quarterbacks who combined for 26-11-2, with 1 interception being returned for a score.

The single touchdown for Oxford came from a 43-yard run by James Walter in the 3rd quarter, followed by a 2 point catch from rookie Andrey Kays.

Despite the heavy scoreline, there were good performances to take away from Sunday and lots to build on for the season ahead.

While Sussex are heavily tipped to take the SFC1 Central title, we know that we can perform better then we did today. We are now fully focused on our trip to South Wales on 23rd April where we aim to prove that we can compete in Division 1 – Chairman Graeme Taylor

NEXT GAME

Next game for Oxford is on 23rd April away to South Wales Warriors. Next home game is on 7th May when the Ouse Valley Eagles travel to Oxford.

View the full 2017 schedule.

Game Preview: Oxford VS Sussex In Season Opener

ON 16th April Oxford will host the Sussex Thunder at Tilsley Park

Following two preseason games against Farnham and Leicester, the Saints will begin their 2017 season with the first league game on Easter Sunday.

The two sides last met in a 2015 Division II quarter-final. Oxford traveled to Sussex on August 23rd and were soundly defeated 50-13. Following a strong regular season, the team were dealt a major blow when quarterback Ben Denton was diagnosed with leukemia, just a few days before the game.

You can read the report of the quarter-final defeat here http://www.oxfordsaints.com/saints-end-2015-with-defeat-by-sussex-thunder/

Oxford VS Sussex – 2015 Playoffs

In 2016 Sussex finished their Division I season with a 5-4-1 record, including a tie against the high-flying Bury Saints, who later secured promotion to the UK’s top division.

Oxford had a record breaking season for the club and their first Division Championship since 2006. Following their 13-0 streak, the Saints were promoted to Division I for 2017 after beating the Cambridgeshire Cats in the southern final.

Oxford Saints in 2016 Division II South Final

Fast forward to this weekend, Oxford and Sussex are now in the same conference. Ben Denton’s recovery is going well and he is back under centre for the Saints. Expected to be starting on Sunday, he’ll have a chance to take on Sussex after he missed the 2015 playoffs.

Alongside Denton’s return, the home game on Easter Sunday will also mark the 10th Anniversary of General Manager Roger Hedges, who passed away in 2007.

A big part of the club, the team will be honouring his memory with a minute silence before kick-off led by his daughter Kelly Hedges. You can learn more about Roger here in the Oxford Mail.

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Key players to look out for will be Denton in his return at quarterback, along with the dangerous tag-team of running back’s James Walter and Tony Glover. They combined for nearly 1,800 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.

With Walter getting the bulk of the workload in 2016, Glover joined towards the end of the season and made an immediate impact. Now, he’ll be competing in his first full season with Oxford.

RB Tony Glover – By Gareth Brown

On defense, there is a great mix of veterans and rookies alike. Key players holding down the fort will likely be Dean Bryan (linebacker), Sam Stancombe (linebacker), George Wright (defensive end) and Deke Morton (defensive tackle).

Between them they accounted for 159 tackles in the 2016 season.

GAMEDAY

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.

Saints Home Venue – Photo by Tilsley Park

 

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

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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.