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Bournemouth Bobcats 0 -8 Oxford Saints
The Saints stop-start campaign got back on track Sunday with a shutout win over division rival Bournemouth Bobcats.
After some unscheduled time off the field due to a last minute match cancellation the undefeated Saints were fired up, frustrated and understandably lacking in rhythm. What had been billed as a matchup of the divisions heavyweight defences did not disappoint on that score.
Bournemouth came into the game similarly undefeated, confident and stingy when it came to giving up points and while it was both sets of defences who kept the game under control for much of the 60 minutes it was the Saints that generated the pressure, turnovers, points and ultimately the win for the travelling Oxford support.
For the third consecutive game it was the Saints front 7 who put the first points on the board. This time though Dean Bryan had to take a backseat. Defensive end Toby Durant charged down a Bobcat punt at the goalline, putting a 2 point safety on the board on only the games second possession.
Oxford's offense was hamstrung by a near constant stream of flags from the officials and their largely self-imposed struggle continued well into the second quarter as succession of first downs were negated by penalties. With an arsenal of potentially gamebreaking talent and a defensive secondary generating turnover opportunities galore it was a Martin Fitzpatrick interception that set Ali Galbraith up on the Bobcats 17 for the games only touchdown. The first year trigger man found tight end James Walter in acres of space and the OBU Panther bulldozed into the corner of the endzone for an 8 point cushion.
Running backs Chris Ellis, Harry Carr, Stephen Bentley and Michael Oluwole continued to struggle against Bournemouth's well marshalled defence and their own teams ill discipline so it was left to their defensive counterparts to maintain the scoreline. With a succession of big sacks from Ken Snider, Lee Hutton and Dean Bryan the Bobcats failed to cross midfield again in the half, and indeed only managed the feat once more in the entire game.
As Oxford started to find their missing mojo a superb 3rd quarter drive, led by QB Josh Randall took the Saints to the 1 yard line of their rivals and within touching distance of a much more comfortable lead. 3 great stops by the Bobcats D had Saints Head Coach Andrew Day making the decision to go for 6 to ice the game. Chris Ellis was brought down on the half yard line on 4th down and life was breathed into the Bobcats challenge.
This Oxford Saints defence, however, is no life support unit, and the plugs were pulled on the ailing Bobcats as Hutton, Durant, Snider and Bentley created chaos and unbearable pressure on the Bournemouth QB. As the hosts increasingly had to chase the game their harrassed signal caller was being forced into more and more ill advised shots downfield. Rob Malia gleefully gobbled up his 3rd and 4th interceptions of the season (despite playing with a broken rib and fractured collarbone sustained on the games opening play). Safety Ben Bishop added 2 more picks for the Saints and ended the game with a minute left on the clock with a spectacular, arching, diving grab at midfield.
Despite their struggles there were a number of bright spots for the Saints and with these well-matched sides due to meet again next week in Oxford Coach Day will know that his team need to build on the positives and eradicate the mistakes if they are to continue their unbeaten start to the season.
Bournemouth visit Oxford on the 24th June for round 2, with kickoff at 2.30 at Abingdon Rugby club.
Published: 18-06-2012 by nw