After snatching victory late on in order to take the win over NTU in ice hockey, UoN looked to extend their lead in the Varsity series, as they now faced their local rivals in American football. There was a packed out crowd at David Ross to cheer the two teams on, in what was set to be a great matchup. Thomas Henigan was there, reporting for Impact.
NTU received the ball to start the game and straight away looked to establish the run game, with their no. 25 rushing for nine yards on the first play of the drive. This trend continued as most of their opening drive plays were runs but on a fourth and three in UoN territory, they opted for a pass, and the receiver was tackled just short of the first down. It was a strong start for the UoN defence.
The UoN offence entered play for the first time and straight away pulled out some trickery with a flea flicker play. It didn’t come off how they wanted though, with the pass being incomplete and lucky not to be ruled a fumble. The offence managed to find their groove though and found themselves inside NTU’s part of the field. That’s when no. 6 George Dominguez, nicknamed ‘The Lawnmower’, broke free for a huge touchdown run to open the scoring for UoN! The extra point attempt was no good, but UoN had struck first.
NTU looked to respond instantly. But, as two deep passes were broken up down the field by UoN, the Renegades were forced to punt.
Their drive continued, thanks to what was one of their best plays of the game so far
To start their second drive of the game, UoN quarterback Robby Rowell took off for a big run. Rowell then continued to show off his playmaking ability, as in the same drive he escaped a sack and made another big run for a first down. Then, from seven yards out, the ball was handed off to no. 10 Tof Lala, who leapt into the endzone for UoN’s second touchdown of the game. The offence was unsuccessful on their two-point conversion attempt, but they had made the score 12-0.
As the second quarter began, NTU had the ball two scores down and needed some big plays to try and stay in the game. So far, it had mainly been the run game where NTU had found their success but, on a third and long, they were forced to go to the air. Their quarterback was able to find no. 88 on a big pass for a first down and their drive continued, thanks to what was one of their best plays of the game so far.
An incomplete pass on this fourth and long play gave UoN the ball back yet again. Both offences started to slow as the crowd saw back-to-back three and outs from the two sides.
The UoN defence continued its impressive first half performance
UoN looked to get back on track and, on the first play of their fourth drive, it looked like Rowell was going to be sacked for a big loss after he fumbled the snap, but he was able to improvise and found no. 11 Jonathan Mbanefo with an incredible throw off his back foot. Mbanefo brought the ball in brilliantly but he unfortunately fumbled! UoN were luckily able to recover though, as this could have been the play that brought NTU right back into the game.
UoN’s drive continued though, and they kept the ball moving as no. 1 Bolaji Adewale found a gap to run for a big gain and was eventually brought down at the NTU 38-yard line. Despite these positive plays, the drive ended in another punt, although Dominguez did almost bring in a catch for a huge touchdown. The UoN defence continued its impressive first half performance and forced another punt from NTU.
The boys in gold didn’t have much time left to add to their lead and the drive started badly with a 15-yard penalty on the offence. That didn’t stop Rowell though, as he unloaded a beautiful pass deep downfield to find Mbanefo again, who was tackled at around the NTU 20-yard line. Despite this incredible play though, time ran out in the first half and the score remained unchanged. At half time, UoN led 12-0.
UoN received the ball to start the second half.
It was looking like a perfect start to the second half as Dominguez had another huge run
UoN had a big chance to extend their lead to three scores, but NTU made their first big splash play of the game, with their no. 32 intercepting Rowell at the two-yard line to instil some real belief into the Renegades.
NTU looked like they might capitalise on their big play after some more good running from their no. 25. But they were still unable to get past the strong UoN defence, who got a sack on fourth and 10 to get their offence back on the field.
The UoN offence wasted no time. On the first play of the drive, Rowell kept the ball himself and showed his scrambling ability once again, taking off into the open field and running all the way for a touchdown! UoN converted the extra point, making it 19-0! A second Varsity win was looking likely!
NTU would have known coming into the game that it was going to be a big challenge to overcome this UoN side, which had fallen just short of a national title, but they still would have been disappointed with their performance so far. If they wanted to have any chance of a comeback, they needed to score on the next drive.
They stuck with their principles on offence and continued to run the ball well with no. 25 and no. 33 to take them down the field. Then, from about 8 yards out, no. 33 ran in for the touchdown, and the strong UoN defence had finally been broken down. NTU went for two but were unsuccessful, leaving the score at 19-6.
the third quarter came to a close with a comeback potentially on the cards
UoN looked to instantly respond and re-extend their lead, with Tof running for some good yardage to start the drive. Rowell looked to continue showing off his rushing ability, as he took off for what looked to be another solid gain, but he fumbled the ball and NTU recovered. Suddenly, the game looked like it could be turning on its head.
As NTU started their drive with a nice run from their no. 89, the third quarter came to a close with a comeback potentially on the cards. The Renegades continued to move the ball well and ended the drive with an impressive touchdown pass to no. 89.
The Renegades continued their strong second half as they forced UoN to punt the ball right back to them.
The NTU offence had a chance to drive down the field and tie the game to complete the comeback. They made their way deep into UoN territory. The boys in gold had their backs against the wall, but managed to limit NTU to just a one yard run on third and three. That left the offence with a decision to make on fourth and two.
the NTU defence continued their strong second half, forcing another punt by the offence
They decided to go for it, making this one of the biggest plays of the game so far. Sticking to what had given them most of their success, NTU handed the ball off to their no. 25 but UoN’s no. 62 Lewis Thomas made one of the plays of the game, breaking through to make the tackle well short of the first down marker!
The defensive stop looked like it would give UoN the momentum they needed, but the NTU defence continued their strong second half, forcing another punt by the offence to give their own attack another chance to tie the game up.
The NTU offence once again looked to the run game to bring them success. On the first play of this crucial drive, the ball was handed to no. 25, who showed his elite speed and power, bouncing to the left and around the defence to take the ball all the way to the UoN 21-yard line.
But on the first play after no. 25’s big run, the centre delivered a bad snap and UoN’s no. 5 Eli Lewis was quickest to react and scooped it up to give the UoN defence their first turnover of the game (though they did have several fourth down stops by this point)!
UoN’s no. 34 Nathan Luvin made a lovely interception to all but end the game
The UoN offence were back on the field, but, since Rowell’s big run for a touchdown, they hadn’t been able to break the NTU defence down at all, so the offence knew something had to change if they wanted to kill this game off.
Many would say the offence should have run the ball to drain the clock, but head coach Jason Scott had other ideas. On the first play of the drive, UoN dialled up a play action pass and Rowell unleashed an incredible throw down the left side-line to no. 14 Inigo Wood. Wood brought in the pass perfectly and may or may not have stepped out of bounds at the one-yard line (he definitely stepped out), but the important thing was that the play was ruled a touchdown!
In just two plays, the game had gone from NTU potentially completing a 19-point comeback to UoN almost certainly killing off the game
As the NTU offence came back into play, any small glimmer of hope for them was crushed as UoN’s no. 34 Nathan Luvin made a lovely interception to all but end the game. The clock ran out on UoN’s next possession and the green and gold were victorious!
Full credit to NTU who fought back to make this game a real nail-biter all the way into the late fourth quarter. But, in the end, UoN were deserved victors in a well-fought matchup, with some incredible plays from both sides. It was UoN’s second victory of the varsity series as they look to claim bragging rights over their local rivals yet again!
Featured image courtesy of Dhanin Unnithan. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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