After an opening game victory over the Leicester Falcons, the Nighthawks faced off against a familiar foe in Tamworth Phoenix this past weekend, but came away from Pack Meadow battered and bruised after a tough encounter against the perennial Premiership North Champions.
The Nighthawks won the toss and deferred, giving Tamworth the ball to start the game. After a reasonable kick return, the Phoenix got to work and were down within the Nighthawks red zone early in the game. A big defensive stand saw Tamworth send out their kicker to attempt a Field Goal, but Matt O’Connell managed to get his hand in front of it to block it. The Phoenix holder picked up the ball and attempted to make a run to the end zone, but was tackled on the Nighthawks 9 yard line to turn the ball over to the ‘Hawks. This drive stalled on the Nighthawks 33 yard line and the away side were forced to punt the ball away, deep into the Tamworth half.
The Phoenix were first to put points on the board, after a sustained drive saw them on the Nighthawks 33 yard line. Facing a 3rd and 9, the Tamworth QB stood in the pocket and threw a pinpoint pass to WR James Hossack who went into the end zone for the score, despite the close attention of S Jonny Weekes. The XP was converted and the home team were out to a 7-0 lead.
The remainder of the 1st quarter followed a similar pattern, with the Nighthawks and Phoenix exchanging 3 and outs and punts. However, a superb punt down to the Tamworth 1 yard line gave the Nighthawks opportunity to capitalise, when 2 plays later, the Phoenix RB fumbled the ball on his own 10 yard line, giving Harry and the Nighthawks offence 1st and goal. A first down run to the Phoenix 2 yard line brought up 2nd and goal, but Tamworth made a huge goal line stand to keep the ‘Hawks out of the end zone, turning the ball over on downs on the 2 yard line of Tamworth.
A quick drive then brought up the Phoenix’s 2nd score of the day, and it was the same connection again that cost the Nighthawks points. WR James Hossack caught the ball on a deep pass over the middle to take the ball into the end zone, untouched, from 73 yards. The XP was good, and the Phoenix lead was 13-0.
The Nighthawks knew that they had to bounce back, and WR Alex Eager returned the ball to the Hawks 35 yard line. That was as far as the drive got, and after a good punt pinned the home team on their own 25, the Phoenix brought up another score, a QB keeper from 70 yards out. The Hawks had been hit hard in the 2nd quarter, and the Phoenix were looking irresistible with a 21-0 lead. This lead would be extended on their next possession when the Tamworth RB caught a swing pass on his own touchline and, despite numerous holds on the play, was able to take it to the house. The Phoenix were unable to add the XP, as Matt OC blocked the kick, and they led 27-0 with 42 seconds left in the 1st half.
Looking to seize the momentum further, the Phoenix executed an onside kick to perfection, taking over on their own 43 yard line, before driving down field with the help of 2 time outs to the Nighthawks 2 yard line. Just as they looked to be ready to take further advantage of their retained possession, the referees stepped in and called an end to the 1st half, the Phoenix worthy leaders 27-0 at half time.
The second half started with the Nighthawks receiving the ball, but followed a similar script to the 1st half. A quick 3 and out gave the Phoenix the ball back, and following a number of penalties on the return , pinned them on their own 16 yard line. The Nighthawks defence stood strong and following a shanked punt from the Phoenix kicker, the Hawks took over on the Tamworth 37. This would bring up the away team’s first points of the day.
After a big catch by Igors Smelovs took the Nighthawks down to the 18 yard line of Tamworth, and a pass interference call on the Phoenix DB on the ensuing series, Merseyside had the ball on the Phoenix 2 yard line. QB Harry Routledge kept the ball on an option play and ran into the end zone virtually untouched. The XP was missed, and the Hawks trailed 27-6.
If that score had given the Nighthawks a glimmer of hope, this was quickly extinguished on the kick off return, when Elliot Walters took the ball around the Nighthawks return team and straight back to pay dirt, extending the Phoenix lead. The kicker added the XP, and the score moved to 34-6 in the blink of an eye.
On the Nighthawks next possession, Routledge threw an interception which led to a skirmish on the Nighthawks sideline, backing the Phoenix up to their own 32 yard line. A quick 3 and out gave the Hawks the ball back, but despite a big catch from Igors Smelovs over the middle, who then hurdled a falling Phoenix player, the away team couldn’t capitalise. The ball was punted back to the home team, and a huge sack on 3rd down from LB Mark Houghton led to the Phoenix punting from their 2 yard line. The Nighthawks took over on their own 32 yard line, but with time loving quickly, the Nighthawks ran out the clock, and brought the game to an end. The Phoenix had shown exactly why they are unbeaten in over 3 years, with a 34-6 final score on the day.
The Nighthawks are back in action this coming Sunday, when they host the Edinburgh Wolves in their first home game of the season. You can find out more here :- https://www.facebook.com/events/610876009387241/