OXFORD END SEASON WITH THRILLING WIN
On Sunday 30th July the Oxford Saints closed their Division 1 season in style with a 24-22 home victory over the Ouse Valley Eagles.
The Saints and Eagles faced each other three times this season, with Oxford coming out on top in two of those contests.
They gained a decisive 35-14 win on 7th May at home, then stumbled to a 20-6 loss on the road in a surprising defeat, but avenged it with the win last Sunday at Tilsley Park.
A exciting game from start to finish, the Saints began with the ball and drove into Eagles territory before quarterback Kyle Swann was intercepted.
The Ouse Valley offense took over but faced a tough defensive front from Oxford, with Spencer Duffy and Conor Whitehouse sacking quarterback Nick Tilbury for a loss of yards. On 4th down, the Eagles attempted to punt but the ball was not set in place and was eventually downed for a further loss of 8 yards.
Swann and the Saints offense took over on the 3 yard line and running back Tony Glover charged up the middle for the opening score. Sam Fielden kicked the extra point to give Oxford a early 7-0 lead.
With Jamahl Watson moving the ball on the ground for the Eagles, the visiting team found the scoreboard in the 2nd quarter with a 28 yard field goal from Mike Turner.
The Saints hit back immediately and marched steadily across the field.
Good running from Glover and Sam Armstrong brought them close to the endzone, with Armstrong entering from 7 yards out on a reverse play for the touchdown. Fielden’s kick went through for the extra point.
On offense, the Eagles were making progress in the air with back to back grabs from Ryan Bowtell but they were unable to get into scoring distance before the end of the half.
The visitors began with the ball in the 3rd quarter but a tackle for a loss of yards by George Wright and another stop from Martin Fitzpatrick brought on the Eagles punt team on 4th down.
Oxford added a quick score on just the 2nd play of the next drive when Glover escaped up the sideline and out paced the Ouse Valley defenders for a 54 yard touchdown run. Another good kick from Fielden gave the Saints a 21-3 advantage.
The Eagles made changes in their offense with Kase Chibwe and Jacob Givens getting the bulk of the work, including some direct snaps to Chibwe. They progressed to the Saints endzone with Chibwe running in for the score. A 2 point conversion attempt failed.
More running from Chibwe and Givens kept the offense moving and Chibwe broke through defenders for a 27 yard touchdown run to narrow the gap. Mike Turner attempted to add a extra point but the ball was not set in place.
A short drive from the Saints saw them having to punt the ball away on 4th down, after picking up minimal gains from Glover and a incomplete pass intended for Dre Kays. A short punt however gave the Eagles good field position, starting on the Saints 28 yard line.
Oxford looked set to make a defensive stand after tackles from George Wright and Dean Bryan, but on 4th down Tilbury threw a pass to Akintunde Adewale over the middle for a 24 yard touchdown. This time Turner was able to kick the extra point and the Eagles took the lead.
22-21 Ouse Valley
Deep in the 4th quarter, it was vital for Oxford to maintain possession of the football but their next drive stalled and they were forced to punt again.
With the Eagles offense back on the field, they were stopped in the backfield with a tackle from Monica Lewinska for a loss of 2 yards and then a fumbled ball was recovered by Michael Bearman, giving the Saints possession again.
Taking over on the Eagles 21 yard line, Oxford faced a tough defense and on 3rd down Glover was tackled for a loss of 2 yards. Attempting to take back the lead, head coach Andrew Day called for a field goal and Sam Fielden kicked the ball through straight through from 34 yards out.
With everything riding on the final drive for Ouse Valley, they picked up 18 yards and a first down but struggled to make gains in the air with Misha Brookes breaking up the pass.
On 3rd down, Sam Stancombe tackled the ball carrier for a loss and a 4th down pass attempt to Adewale was batted down in the air by Martin Fitzpatrick.
With under 2 minutes remaining, the Saints played it safe and ran down the clock with Kyle Swann taking a knee to see out the game.
24-22 Oxford – FINAL SCORE
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After a unexpected heavy defeat to the Solent Thrashers on 23rd July, the Saints were on the back foot in the playoff race and needed two things to happen to stay on track. Firstly, a victory over the Eagles and for the 0-9 South Wales Warriors to pull off a win over Solent.
Whilst Oxford beat the Eagles, the Warriors fell to the Thrashers in a earlier kickoff on the same day and the game between the Saints and Eagles was to determine who would be 3rd in the conference.