Sunday saw Northumberland Lightnings fifth National League game and their first rematch of the campaign, playing host to Dundee Hurricanes at Ashington Rugby Club.
The teams both met 4 weeks earlier in the reverse fixture, playing in horrendous conditions at Morgan Rugby Club, which saw a late surge from the ‘Canes secure a 37-6 victory.
The weather was forecast for much the same on a morning beset with heavy rain, however as the kick off time rolled around the clouds parted and the teams were met with the unusual sight of glorious sunshine
Q1 started well for the Lightning, with the defence working well as a team to hold the ‘Canes back. The offence also moved the ball well, with TE Ross Conley making Northumberlands first big play with a 52 yard rush upfield to put the Lightning into a great field position. That position gave Lightning their first big chance of the game, with QB Callum Pattison finding Conley on the edge of the Endzone – only for the ‘Canes to make a fantastic last ditch tackle as Conley juggled the ball to prevent the early TD.
The game was tied at 0-0 going into Q2, however Conley didn’t have to wait long for his next opportunity. Pattison sold the fake hand off before picking out Conley in the corner of the Endzone and the TE made the most of his opportunity and collected the ball with a diving catch to put the Lightning 6-0 up, after the PAT hit the post.
Dundee had established their own passing game however and QB Bruce Thomson soon picked out a receiver on a deep pass route, allowing the ‘Canes to collect and run it home. The PAT was good, bringing the scores to 7-6 in favour of Dundee.
A fumble from the Lightning then gifted the ‘Canes a final drive prior to the break and they moved the ball down to the edge of the Lightnings Endzone. However the Lightnings defence showed real determination to hold the ‘Canes back as the clock ran out to bring the first half to an end.
Q3 saw Northumberland receive the ball and their offence soon put themselves into a good position within the opening drive. After some powerful running, Pattison saw WR Carl Charlton open in the centre of the Endzone and picked him out for Charltons first Lightning TD. The PAT was good and saw Lightning move back into a 13-6 lead.
The Lightning defence were working hard and a combination of good coverage and powerful tackles saw them continue to win possession back and give the offence more opportunities to extend the lead. That key opportunity came soon after – after a short timeout due to injury for the ‘Canes LB Graham Thomson, the Lightnings Offensive Line combined well to assist a perfectly executed reverse and it was Conley who broke free for a 62 yard rush and his second TD of the afternoon. The PAT was no good, leaving the Lightning up 19-6.
Dundee however continued to fight hard and within a few drives had managed to bring the score back to 19-14, following another deep pass from QB Bruce Thomson on 4th & 13 which found its target. The PAT was good and the game was back on as Q4 approached.
Northumberlands offence continued to deliver and establish a drive based on solid power runs, with Scott Radford, Reece Salkeld and Gary Cooper all combining to drive forward. Two successive penalties on the drives against Dundee; for a late hit out of bounds and then unsportsmanlike conduct, moved the ball to the edge of the ‘Canes Endzone.
1st Down saw the Lightning push closer onto the 1 yard line, but the next down saw FB Scott Radford take the hand-off and dive over the line for his first Lightning TD on his return to the team. Looking to secure the game, the Lightning then made the call to go for 2 points and this paid dividends when Pattison picked out Cooper with a pinpoint pass to make the score 27-14 with only 7 minutes on the clock.
Dundee again refused to go down without a fight and almost immediately, Bruce Thomson had his third TD pass of the day, finding his man upfield to take the game to 27-20 with just under 4 minutes on the clock and setting up a tense finale.
Dundee then made their big play, kicking onside to try and regain possession. The Lightning were first to the ball but couldn’t secure it before Dundee stole in to make the recovery and allow themselves a golden opportunity with everything to play for. They immediately drove up the field but a crucial fumble on 4th down saw Lightning LB Roy Boucher collect the ball to the delight of his team mates.
As the two minute warning approached, the Lightning found themselves on 3rd & 5. However this time TE Lee Davison took the reverse, rushing past the 1st down marker and putting the victory into the Lightnings hands as they ran the clock down to secure their first league win.
After the game, Head Coach Mal Ditcham said: “‘Firstly I’d like to say thanks to the Dundee Hurricanes for making the long trip south, that’s the second time the two clubs have met and both games have been good competitive games played in the right spirit, I’d like to wish them all the best for the rest of the season. Its a great feeling to get our first win of the season, especially to bounce back from a big defeat against West Coast Trojans in our previous game. The players were fantastic and a real credit not only to the club, but to the county of Northumberland. Most of our players had not played American Football prior to this season so to see them develop in such a short space of time is a great credit to the players and the coaches. We have 5 games remaining this season so hopefully this win can be the springboard to more victories’
Full match reports, photo galleries and video highlights coming soon…
*Full credit to Stuart Dick for the information in the game report and Katy Young for the all photography featured in this article*