Powerful running back Josh Hughes is a key part of the South Wales Warriors running game Photo: Craig Thomas/Replay images

Warriors Lay The Groundwork For Play-off Advantage

By Twm Owen

American Football BAFA Southern Conference Division Two West

South Wales Warriors 51 – Cornish Sharks 0

The South Wales Warriors ran all over the Cornish Sharks to ensure they enter the post season play-offs with a perfect record.

But it was the Warriors mean defence that ensured home field advantage throughout the play-offs by shutting out the Sharks.

At the start of the day the Warriors knew if they could keep their visitors to five points or under they would be guaranteed at least the second seeding for the British American Football Association (BAFA) Southern Conference play-offs.

To keep the ball secure, and eat up the clock as well as yardage, the Warriors sought to move the ball on the ground and, after surprising the Sharks by stealing the opening kick-off, did so effectively with strong running back Josh Hughes.

But Warriors QB Dean Jackson looked to have thrown away that advantage after Hughes’ big gains had moved the hosts to within four yards of the Sharks end zone.

On a rare drop back Jackson misplaced a pass wide left that was intercepted by defender Leo Carney who looked to be headed for a pick six as he raced down the sideline. Jackson made amends by tackling the defender at the Sharks 34-yard-line when it appeared certain Carney would give the visitors a shock lead if he could have got pass the QB.

The Sharks were unable to make any offensive headway and after punting the ball away the Warriors kept it in Hughes’ hands. When he again carried his side to within yards of the end zone he crashed over from two yards for the game’s first touchdown, which was converted by Mick Duncan.

The Warriors defence was able to add a two-point safety to the total towards the end of the first quarter when the Sharks, pinned near their own goal line, sent a poor snap into their own end zone.

With the ball back in the home side’s possession running back Daniel Abbruzzese was now given responsibility for carrying the team, which he did successfully until he limped out after being tripped.

Adam Hilton then stepped into the breach and sprinted in from five yards to add the second touchdown and Duncan added the extra point.

The toothless Sharks were still unable to produce on offence and when their punter was tackled at his own 24 yard line, after another poor snap, Jackson took control and connected with Duncan with a deep pass to the one yard line. From there it was Liam Thomas’ turn to get on the scoresheet, and Duncan again converted.

There was time for another score before the half-time whistle as the Sharks, deep in their own territory, tried to pass their way forward. But QB Tom Atkinson was picked off by defensive back David Sami who shrugged off one tackle to run in from 12 yards.

The Warriors again attempted to kick the single point conversion but when the snap went astray Duncan picked it up and swept into the right hand corner to score the two-point conversion.

In the third quarter it was Chris Rees’ turn to carry the load but when the Warriors reached the Sharks four yard line Jackson faked the hand-off and kept the ball to add his own rushing touchdown, converted by Duncan.

The score meant the ‘mercy rule’ would be enforced with a running clock but the Warriors still added a further two touchdowns.

First Jackson hit Lawrence Tuckett for a 10-yard-touchdown pass but another poor snap thwarted the conversion attempt and in the fourth quarter Hughes returned to the action to run in his second touchdown from three yards out, which Duncan converted.

The Warriors will now face west rivals the Bristol Apache in the quarter finals this Sunday, August 112 and will have a home semi-final if they again defeat their Severnside rivals having triumphed 21-46 in their only meeting during the regular season.

Head coach Geraint Roberts said he was pleased with his team’s performance to close the regular season: “We executed our game plan and managed the clock. If we had conceded we would have dropped to the number three seed. We ate up the clock and gained a lot of yards on the ground. The 51 points on top was nice but more important was the zero against.”

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