GAME HIGHLIGHTS – provided by sussex thunder
Saints show comeback spirit but unable to overcome the tough Sussex Thunder
The rematch between Oxford (2-2) and Sussex (5-0) saw a much more contested game than the previous one, but the Saints failed to overcome a 0-19 deficit at half time.
Following the kickoff, the Saints started with the ball close to their own endzone. With quarterback Kyle Swann under centre for Oxford, disaster struck in the opening play of the game when a pass was tipped up at the line and intercepted by Sussex, just a few yards out from the goalline.
Desperate to avoid giving up an early lead, Saints linebacker Sam Stancombe put pressure on veteran quarterback Eber Kington and on 3rd down, Kington attempted a pass into the endzone but was intercepted by defensive back Sam Crowther, forcing the change of possession.
For the 1st quarter the score remained 0-0 with defenses for both teams holding strong. The Sussex offense with their powerful passing game kept the Saints on guard, but Oxford’s offense struggled to gain momentum.
Oxford had a chance to open the scoring but a touchdown pass to rookie receiver Dre Kays was nullified after a penalty by the Saints offense brought it back.
Sussex eventually struck first in the 2nd quarter with a pass from Kington to Chris Evans who sprinted into the endzone on a 39 yard touchdown.
Andrew Stone kicked the extra point, giving the Thunder a 7-0 lead.
Later in the 2nd quarter, Oxford’s Misha Brooks intercepted Kington and returned it 14 yards, bringing the Saints offense back onto the field. Unable to capitalise, quarterback Kyle Swann was tackled for a loss of 4 yards and then intercepted by Samuel Oldfield for Sussex on 2nd down, returning it 13 yards.
Back to back penalties against Oxford added to the damage and gave the Thunder good field position for their next drive.
On 1st down Kington handed the ball to running back Vince Valentine, who ran straight into the endzone for a 26 yard score.
Stone’s extra point kick missed to the right.
With Oxford’s offense still struggling to move the ball, Sussex got another drive before the end of the first half. Kington passed the ball to Adam Fishlock, catching it over the top of the Saints defender and adding their 3rd touchdown in quick succession.
Stone added the extra point and the Saints found themselves going into the 2nd half with a sudden 0-19 deficit.
END OF HALF
Early in the 3rd quarter, the Thunder extended their lead on 2nd down with Ben Chukwu-onu running up the sideline for a 35 yard touchdown.
Stone kicked the extra point through the uprights.
Sam Crowther gave the team a boost intercepting Kington for a 2nd time, forcing a change of possession. With the offense back on the field and James Walter at quarterback, they kept the ball on the ground and moved it well against the Sussex defense.
Good running from Tony Glover, Rob Johnson and Antonious Athanasiou gave the Saints several first downs. Walter charged through from 6 yards out to give Oxford their first touchdown. Rookie kicker Dean Fuller added the extra point.
The Saints defense slowed down the Thunder on their next drive, with Dean Fuller breaking up a pass on 3rd down, forcing Sussex to punt the ball away.
Another march by the offense took Oxford across the field with Glover getting the brunt of the work. From 4 yards out, Walter ran in for his 2nd touchdown and Fuller kicked the extra point.
Oxford’s defense continued to be a strong force throughout the rest of the game, only allowing one score in the 2nd half and forcing Sussex to punt the ball away on back to back possessions.
The Saints were striving to make a comeback and on their next drive, Walter completed a 30 yard pass to Sam Armstrong but they were unable to convert for another first down. On 4th down, Walter attempted a pass into the endzone but it was intercepted and returned for 20 yards.
Sussex’s offense took a knee on their final drive to run down the remaining clock time, securing their 5th win of the season.
26-14 SUSSEX – FULL TIME
With a competitive 1st quarter, the Saints fell behind when Sussex scored three touchdowns in quick succession and Oxford were unable to respond with any of their own.
Although a loss, the Saints can find positives in their performance with the defense holding Sussex to just one touchdown in the 2nd half. The defense delivered momentum swings with 3 interceptions and forced the high-powered Sussex offense to punt multiple times.
The offense showed their power once again with the running game, crossing the length of the field on back to back drives and adding 2 touchdowns from James Walter. Despite the surge in the 4th quarter, the Saints were unable to get out of the 0-26 hole.
The special teams unit were on form once again, with rookie Dean Fuller hitting both extra points and good kickoffs. Travis Folkes delivered more key tackles on special teams to limit returns by Sussex.
The Saints have a week for training and then travel back to Brighton for round 3 against the Sussex Thunder on 4th June.