Sunday 17th finally saw the meeting of the top two in the BUCS 1A North league- Northumbria Mustangs v Newcastle Raiders. The win would count for two games due to the inability to reschedule the cancelled game before the end of the season, making it a game of huge stakes that would decide the league title.
Both teams looked ready to go during pre-game but it was the Mustangs that came out of the stocks fighting in the first quarter. Within the first five minutes Newcastle had been pushed right back towards the endzone and conceded an early touchdown. With Northumbria dominating so early on, it looked as though it could be a miserable day for the so far unbeaten Raiders.
With the sideline rallying behind the Raiders and a newfound spirit courtesy of an early team talk, it didn’t take long before the Raiders began to take charge as we’ve seen all season, and for Northumbria’s complacency to cost them. The offence began finding gaps in the Mustang defence. There seemed to be an air of Deja Vu as Michael Atementaka completed a twenty odd yard run which was pulled back for a penalty, only to complete the same run on the next play. Soon after, QB Henry Bulmer completed a pass into the endzone for James Cross which was again pulled back for a penalty, only to complete the same pass in the following down for the touchdown, levelling the score with the Mustangs.
The Raiders only gained more momentum in the second quarter; with the Mustang’s offence unable to really challenge the defence with anything new, they became frustrated, which was reflected in their play with a number of fouls pushing their offence back valuable yards. The Raiders offence consequently found themselves in strong scoring positions on multiple occasions, bettered by Bulmer’s awareness to make yards from QB rushes. Receivers were on top form with Josh Burton securing a second touchdown and a third from rookie Lawrence Eastman before halftime. Eastman made an impressive 7 catches throughout the game, one of which making 50 yards to get the Raiders offence out of their own endzone.
Kicker Yacine Meziane was on top form converting all three 1-point conversions following the touchdowns, making the score 21-7 at half time.
The second half was a chance for the defence to shine. They held down the Mustang’s offence with big tackles and regular interceptions, Jono Coombes making an admirable three picks. The D-line and linebackers applied pressure on the Mustangs QB and neutralised any threatening runs through the middle, and DBs denied any yards from the pass. In the third and fourth quarters, the offence continued to apply pressure yet were unable to score despite coming close. Northumbria’s reputation in the league preceded them but when it came to it, the Mustangs had run through their playbook unsuccessfully, exhausting their ability to take anything from the second half but a two-point safety, the game finishing 21-9.
The game MVPs were Jono Coombes (S), Matt Dyke (LB/DE), Laurence Eastman (WR) and James Cross (WR).
The result ensured Newcastle Raiders will finish top of the league, and with a chance to secure an undefeated season after facing Edinburgh Napier on 24th Feb, there is huge drive for the result. From there the playoffs approach where the true test will lie for the Raiders. Will anyone be able to stop the team that have so confidently dominated the Northern league?