East Anglian final still on cards
PUBLISHED: 14:39 15 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 March 2010
THE Gridiron gods smiled down on the Ipswich Cardinals as they made the long journey north to Chester Rugby Club on Sunday. The weather was absolutely miserable for the entire day, making the conditions tremendously difficult for the host team Advance Personnel Surge, and their high powered passing game.
THE Gridiron gods smiled down on the Ipswich Cardinals as they made the long journey north to Chester Rugby Club on Sunday.
The weather was absolutely miserable for the entire day, making the conditions tremendously difficult for the host team Advance Personnel Surge, and their high powered passing game.
Unable to stage the match at their Crewe base, the Surge chose Chester, even further for the Suffolk based Cardinals to travel, but the plan backfired in a big way as the pumped up travellers tore into their northern conference opposition right from the opening whistle.
The rain that fell continuously, only stopping at the half time interval before starting again as the second half commenced, favoured the bruising running game of Ipswich.
Both teams quarterbacks had problems handling the ball, and while Ipswich's Ian Girling could rely on the running backs to as the Cardinal defense shut down the running game very effectively.
It didn't take long for the Ipswich defence to force an impression as Large's receiver's were blanketed out by aggressive coverage.
He was hustled and harried into throwing errant passes and his running backs were hammered backwards by some tremendous gang tackling.
Stu Brereton at safety and Brian Petterway at cornerback blasted the receivers whether they held onto a pass or not while linebackers Carter Hester and Paul Mellor just blasted anything in a white shirt!
It was Tony Groden who registered the first score when he intercepted a short pass intended for a back. The ecstatic defender was delighted to score his first ever touchdown for the club when he ran in the 20 yards untouched.
The extra point attempt by kicker Sandy Francis was blocked and the score was 6-0.
On the next Surge drive the big hits by the rampaging Cardinal defence created another turnover when a runner coughed up the ball.
Big Fred Crenshaw was the first to react and he fell on the loose ball at the Surge 30-yard line.
Four plays later the Cardinals' Paul Borstel trotted in from short yardage to extend the lead to 12.
Francis' kick sailed through the uprights this time and the score advanced to an unlucky 13 to Ipswich.
There was no more scoring in the first half and the delighted coaching staff of James Mitchell and Chris Cantrill were full of praise at the interval for their players efforts in the conditions.
In the second half, bearing in mind the Surge had only conceded 44 points all season, the Cardinals offense began dominating their opposite numbers and chalked up a further 17 points.
Large and his passing attack were by now, completely demoralised by the tenacity and aggression of the Cardinals defense and it never looked like the northerners could mount a comeback of any kind.
A Sandy Francis 44 yard field goal restarted the ball rolling and when running back Mark Wallace sniped through a blitzing Surge defense before scampering 40 yards for his first score of the afternoon, the gloom on the Surge sideline was visibly evident.
Francis converted that effort to advance the score again, now 23-0.
By contrast, the Ipswich sideline was beginning to realise this game looked a certainty, and when Wallace burst free again from long range to score, the celebrations started.
With Francis' fourth success of the day a total of 30 points had been scored on the Surge, the team with the league's stingiest defense.
In the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, Large at last connected with his favourite target Neil Sullivan down the middle for a long gain. Try as they might though, the Surge offense could not better the Cardinals resolute defense and they held firm, forcing the Surge to turn the ball over on downs.
With just two minutes left the Surge were given a consolation score when the ball was fumbled forward in the slippery conditions and ran back into the endzone.
The Ipswich defense had the final say when they stuffed the two extra points attempt and the memorable victory was sealed.
Elsewhere in the BSL's Second Division, the number one ranked Oxford Saints came from 14-0 down against the Plymouth Admirals before winning 24-14.
They will be the Cardinals semi-final opponents in two weeks time while the other semi will be between Norwich, who defeated the Yorkshire Rams 17-0, and Lancashire's Wolverines.
They narrowly squeezed past the Southend Sabres in double overtime to win 14-8.
An East Anglian final is still a possibility then, just like back in 1989, although the Cardinals must look no further than the next opponents from Oxford.