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Oxford Saints 0 - 16 Cornish Sharks
The Oxford Saints serene progress through the South West conference of Division 2 came to a shuddering halt Saturday with the visit of the Cornish Sharks.
The Sharks ran out 16-0 winners in a must win game for them, and they rarely looked troubled by the much fancied Oxford side.
Saints woes started on their first drive of the day. The Oxford defence took a little time to adjust to the hard running Cornish outfit and a bruising encounter quickly looked on the cards. Stopping the Sharks on their first drive gave Oxfords offence a chance to set the tone, but despite a sustained drive into Cornish territory a costly fumble quietened their sideline and it was the turnover battle that would ultimately prove decisive.
The Sharks immediately took a grip on the games momentum as Lee Ambridge capped an 8 play drive with an incisive cut through a flat footed Oxford D for a 24 yard touchdown and a 7 point lead.
After Oxford went 3 and out on their next drive, time consuming but slightly aimless possessions characterised both team’s efforts. After Oxford spilled the ball a second time Linebacker Simon McEvoy wrestled the ball back from the Sharks offense to give QB Alistair Galbraith and his 2 minute offense a shot at levelling the scores.
3 probing runs from halfback Harry Carr failed to prise open the Sharks defense and the Saints took to the air. A barnstorming 20 yard run after the catch deep into Cornish territory by James Walter was immediately followed by a laser to wide receiver Sam Armstrong. Armstrong took the ball in stride and headed for home. The Oxford sideline erupted as he dove into the endzone only to be stunned as the referee marked the ball at the half yard line. Lacking timeouts and time Oxford managed to get one play off before the half and were stopped short.
Unfortunately the Saints offense were unable to recover from their malaise and the 3rd quarter proved chastening and ultimately decisive. Managing only negative yards and punts, the Sharks were starting every drive inside Oxfords half and the pressure began to tell. Reprieved when an apparent punt return touchdown was called back for a block in the back the Saints D held firm, limiting the Sharks to a 37 yard David Kriehn field goal and a 10 point lead.
10 points quickly became insurmountable at the start of the 4th quarter when Josh Randall was intercepted at midfield setting up a final Cornish drive to seal the tie. After several lacerating runs through a fading Oxford defence, QB Richard Atkinson made the final score 16-0 with a 1 yard sneak.
Mike Oluwole and Chris Ellis reminded the sideline of what the Oxford O has to offer when they are on song, with some big runs, but it was too little and far too late as their drive petered out in the Sharks redzone with nought but a few ticks left on the game clock.
The result keeps the Sharks in the hunt for a playoff berth but Oxford will have to shake off the disappointment of the performance and result in a hurry as their final 3 games of the regular season come one after another with Bristol next on the card.
An announcement of the venue for the 14th July Bristol Apache game will be made during the week, with road games at Gloucester and finally Bournemouth on subsequent weekends.
Published: 09-07-2012 by nw