The Tyrants are one win away from the BUCS Northern Tier Division 1 title after a commanding 28 – 12 away day victory over the Hull Sharks.
Three touchdowns from quarterback Leendert van Dalsen and a systematic offensive drive after halftime, culminating with a Josh Welsh touchdown, put an end to the Sharks’ hopes of victory after their strong start going up 12-8 in the first half.
Having already clinched their ticket to the postseason thanks to results elsewhere in the league last week, the Tyrants had little to play for but didn’t let complacency set in and comfortably dealt with the physical Hull side.
Two huge plays by the Sharks in the first half put the Tyrants on the back foot. With a punishing run from Amiel Quashie, who burst through a hole in the defensive line and went 75 yards for the touchdown. This was followed up by the burly undercover athlete Cameron Meakes who found himself in acres of space behind the secondary; a great throw from Sharks quarterback Reece Page hit Meakes, whose burst of speed was too much for the Tyrants’ defence.
Lapses like this are a rarity for the Tyrants defensive unit, who have been solid all season. They’re currently 3rd in the division for points allowed, and barring a few cheap touchdowns given away against MMU once the game was won, they seldom give up big yardage plays or high scores.
In the second half, their miserly streak returned and the Sharks didn’t have a sniff of getting back into the game. Linebacker Louis Audibert set the tone after the half with some bruising tackles at the line of scrimmage. And defensive back Nelson Hamilton was a nuisance for the Hull receivers – even when they managed to bring a catch in, they’d only have a couple of steps before being ensnared by the stifling Hamilton. Sharks quarterback Page seemed terrified of the defensive line, particularly Destiny Olusegun, who didn’t give him a moment to settle. Page and his receivers struggled to connect, with dropped passes and errant throws stalling the offence on each drive.
Tyrants quarterback Leendert van Dalsen had another day to remember with three rushing touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Dalsen struggled early on in the opening few drives to get on the same wavelength as his backs and receivers, but as he has done so often this season, went on another of his marauding runs up the field at the right time. On his first touchdown run of the day, he glided through the middle of the defence, dancing between defenders before cutting up the right sideline to go in for the opening score. The Hull defence just couldn’t deal with the running game all day, with option plays in particular causing them all types of trouble.
Josh Welsh went in for his customary touchdown in the third quarter to seal the game. Welsh will be disappointed not to come away with the best play of the day when he received the ball on a swing pass out wide, after breaking a tackle and charging 65 yards down the sideline it looked like a certain touchdown. The Tyrants’ sideline set off down the pitch with him like greyhounds chasing after a mechanical hare. He was stopped shy of the goal line by an immense last-ditch tackle by Tyler Brisbane-Charles on the Sharks defence. As good a stop as it was, Welsh would still stroll into the endzone two plays later.
With the title and all important seedings for the postseason at stake on the final day of the season, the Tyrants will need to stay focused to see off the Leeds Gryphons who have an identical win record of 6-1. A home game against bottom-of-the-table MMU Eagles may not sound like a tough proposition, but with relegation looming, the Eagles aren’t going to be a walkover. MMU’s offence scored a season-high 24 points against the Tyrants in a chippy game earlier in the season, so it’s clear they can cause the men in purple some problems. In reality, the title is the Tyrants to lose, but you never know what can happen on derby day.
You can watch the Tyrants’ final home game of the season against the MMU Eagles on Sunday 12 February 3 pm at the Armitage Centre Pitch E.