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Oxford Saints 42 - 06 Bristol Apache
On a sweltering day in Abingdon the Saints finally got to face the Bristol Apache in Game 2 of their Division 2 West campaign. After a faltering, if ultimately convincing week 1 win over Gloucester, the Saints needed to step up a gear and they did not disappoint.
For the second straight week the Oxford defense got out to a fast start and it was Dean Bryan again, a week after returning an interception for a touchdown, who scooped up a blocked punt and raced, untouched, into the endzone for a 7-0 lead.
With the tone for the day set, and the Saints settling into a rythmn, near constant pressure in the Apache backfield was soon rewarded again as Lee Hutton stripped the ball from the Bristol QB for middle linebacker Stephen Bentley to gather in open field and gallop 60 yards, with an escort to extend the lead to 14.
With the Oxford offense, behind the power running of former OBU Panther Xander Morgan and a 54 yard breakaway by QB Ali Galbraith, beginning to settle, Chris Ellis drove into the endzone from a couple of yards out to pull the Saints further ahead.
Just before the break the Saints made the score 28-0 when Rob Malia intercepted McDowell and ran endzone to endzone for an apparent 103 yard TD. A block in the back penalty on the return negated the score and brought the Oxford Offense onto the field. Harry Carr immediately ripped his first carry of the day 46 yards through multiple attempted tackles and across the goalline.
With the Oxford Defence dialling up the pressure, MVP Ken Snider and Lee Hutton were causing havoc in the Apache backfield. Snider led the Saints with 3½ of the total 10 sacks on the day and along with Hutton, McEvoy, Fitzpatrick, Durant and Ellis shared 17 backfield tackles.
With further turnovers, including another pick by Malia and 3 fumble recoveries, giving Oxford a short field Josh Randall found TE James Walter for a 10 yard TD and a 35 point Oxford lead at the 3rd quarters mid-point.
Despite the Apache offense, well marshalled by QB McDowell, finding occasional gaps and exploiting some short passing routes as well as utilizing some hard running behind FB Tim Stone, the Saints seemed well settled and began to close the game out. The Oxford O line was affording their backs some solid protection, including Lydon Ward-Best driving a text book block fully 30 yards all the way out to the side line a la high school era Michael Oher.
It was the Apache, however, who breached the pylons next, the first score against the Saints in 2012. A clever half-back option call by the Apache sideline brought them inside the Oxford 5, from where McDowell found Scott Meredith leaping in the back corner. The PAT was charged down and a riled Saints now needed to show some character and close out the tie.
A sustained 4th quarter drive featuring hard running from James Ferrigno, Carr and FB Troy Smith, brought Oxford down to the Apache goalline from where Randall followed a huge block from Ward-Best across the line. The PAT from Jonny Dover was flawless, just as the previous 5 had been and the scoring was closed at 42-6.
Now installed at the top of Division 2 West the Saints will host their third game on the bounce this coming Sunday against the high flying Cornish Sharks and will be looking to continue their improvement and cement their playoff credentials.
Kick off is 2.30pm at Abingdon RFC.
Published: 22-05-2012 by nw