SUSSEX BRING THE THUNDER
Date: 3rd June 2018
Location: Brighton Rugby Club, Sussex
Statistics: PDF Download
With the 3rd straight game on the road, the Saints suffered a heavy defeat. In recent years, it had been the Saints handing out such punishments and they hadn’t endured such a scoreline since a 51-0 loss in 2013 against the Cornish Sharks.
In the competitive central conference of Division 1 South, the Oxford team travelled with various missing players and felt their absence, especially on defense.
The Saints faced the Sussex Thunder three times in the 2017 season and although they conceded all three games, two of them were close fought affairs, including a narrow 1 point loss.
Oxford began with the ball and had quarterback James Sharples as the starter. With two carries from Shaun Griffin for a combined 9 yards, the Saints attempted a pass but failed to gain the additional yard needed for a first down and punted the ball away.
With the Thunder offense out on the field, veteran quarterback Eber Kington led his unit to a quick score. After two short run plays, Kington connected with receiver Chris Evans who hauled in the ball and ran into the endzone for a 48 yard touchdown. James Brooker added the extra point kick. 7-0 Sussex.
Looking to respond, the Saints put together a sustained drive across the field with running from Griffin, Connor Day and Isa Mohammed. On 3rd down, Tony Glover was handed the ball and ran for a 22 yard gain and a crucial first down.
With the endzone in sight, Mohammed got the Saints onto the scoreboard as he charged into the endzone, claiming his first career touchdown for Oxford. Sam Fielden added the extra point to equalise. 7-7 tie.
ISA MOHAMMED FIRST CAREER TOUCHDOWN
Expecting the game to be a back and forth affair, the Saints struggled to contain the dangerous running back Ben Chukwu-onu, who escaped through the defense for a 34 yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. Brooker added another point to give the Thunder the lead. 14-7 Sussex.
After a stalled drive for Oxford, the Thunder offense showed their talents once again with Kington passing the ball to Thomas Kelly on the 2nd play for a 38 yard touchdown. Another kick extended the Sussex lead to 21-7.
A fumbled ball on Oxford’s next drive was recovered by the Thunder defense, but the Saints managed to keep Kington and his troops at bay as they settled for a 29 yard field goal from Brooker. 24-7 Sussex.
Now in the 2nd quarter, the Saints handed the ball to Mohammed on back to back plays, picking up a first down on a 13 yard run. On 3rd down, the ball came loose and it was scooped up by Thunder’s Samuel Oldfield who returned it the distance for a 45 yard touchdown. 31-7.
Ramping up the score even further, Oxford’s defense couldn’t stop Chukwu-onu who escaped up the sideline on the 2nd play of the drive for a 60 yard touchdown and his 2nd of the day. Brooker kicked the extra point and the gulf deepened to 38-7.
Hoping to add a consolation score before the end of the half, Mohammed showed his strong running abilities with two first downs on two carries. On the next play an under-pressure Sharples saw his pass intercepted, forcing a change of possession.
A good display from the Saints defense kept the Thunder’s offense out of the endzone, forcing a long 43 yard field goal attempt by Brooker, but his kick was blocked.
HALF TIME 38-7 Sussex
Following a disastrous first half, the Thunder were comfortable with their lead to rest Kington and put in quarterback Jaden Ellis. Oxford’s defense forced their opponents to punt the ball away, giving the Saints their first possession of the 2nd half.
On the first play of the drive, a pass attempt from Sharples was intercepted and the Sussex defender returned the ball to the 1 yard before being tackled just short of the endzone by Sharples. Jaden Ellis sneaked the ball up the middle for the 1 yard gain, seeing Sussex pull to a 45-7 lead.
Oxford seemed to find their form when they were marching down the field towards the Thunder endzone, with Mohammed shining with his impressive running, throwing multiple defenders to the ground as he charged through. From 2 yards out, Griffin attempted to enter the endzone but the ball came loose and it was recovered by Sussex, putting an end to Oxford’s promising drive.
Although Sussex had possession, they were backed up against their goalline and started on the 2 yard line. Veteran defender Spencer Duffy forced his way through and took down the ball carrier for a loss of 2 yards. As the tackle happened in the endzone, the Saints were awarded a Safety and gained 2 points. 45-9 Sussex.
The Thunder offense would add on a final score to have the last say of the game, with Ellis connecting with Chris Evans for a 40 yard touchdown pass and another perfect kick from Brooker. 52-9 Sussex.
FINAL 52-9 SUSSEX
Although it was a scoreline that the Saints will want to forget, there were still positives to take away. Isa Mohammed showcased tough running and his ability to power through defenders, demonstrating that he could quickly become a key part of the Oxford offense in his first season.
Tony Glover was a reliable option as always when the team needed to gain yards, pulling off an impressive 22 yard run. Quarterback James Sharples threw some great passes and was aware of pressure closing in on him, connecting with Charlie Hill who hauled in two quick passes.
On defense, paticularly in the 2nd half, there was renewed determination across the board and Eugene Agidee made several key tackles with intensity. Spencer Duffy also added a defensive score with a safety.
All eyes will now be on old rivals Bristol Apache, who travel to Oxford this weekend on Sunday 10th June. The Saints comfortably dispatched Bristol in their last three encounters whilst both teams were in Division 2. The Saints will have circled this game as a opportunity for a much needed morale boost.