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13th March 2024

Tyrants cruise to playoff victory against Stirling Clansmen. Final Score: 20 – 8

The Tyrants wrapped up the division title on the final day of the regular season against MMU and progressed to next round of the playoffs with a convincing win.
Tyrants cruise to playoff victory against Stirling Clansmen. Final Score: 20 – 8
Credit: Two Frog Creative Studios

The recently crowned BUCS Northern Division 1 Champions carried their unbeaten winning streak on into the postseason with a 20 – 8 victory over the University of Stirling Clansmen. 

Wrapping up the regular season

The Tyrants sealed their first division title against the Manchester Metropolitan University Eagles in the final game of the regular season with a comprehensive 30 – 12 drubbing. The Manchester derby was a foul-tempered affair, with emotions running high for the Eagles, who were relegated from the division with their seventh loss of the season. 

A victory was never really in doubt for the Tyrants, who dominated through every phase. Joshua Welsh, Max Simmons, and Elliot Thomas all came away with touchdowns. The defensive duo of Pierce Lüthi and Nelson Hamilton blanketed the Eagles’ receivers; Lüthi had an interception and Hamilton a fumble recovery. 

Injured centre Toby Squire did his best to affect the match despite not padding up. His cheerleading from the sidelines, screaming for the defence whilst waving his crutches in the air showed the team spirit that is present amongst the squad.

The ceremonial ‘Gatorade dunk’ welcomed head coach Mike Ripley at the end of the game. I’m sure he won’t mind the sodden clothes for his first divisional championship as a coach. The turnaround he and his coaching staff have pulled off from last year and this season’s opening game is a brilliant achievement. 

In week one against Liverpool, the team looked lost. Late play calls, poor execution, and mismatched uniforms didn’t exactly scream playoff contender. Once the Tyrants found their style of play, they comfortably dealt with all the teams they faced. The turnaround has been impressive, but the coaches and players still want more.

Onto the Postseason  

Comfortable but not outstanding is the best way to describe this game for the Tyrants. An opening drive touchdown gave the impression the men in purple were going to have their way with the Clansmen. But credit to the travelling team; they dug in and made the game a contest for three quarters. 

Varied play calls stopped the Stirling defence from getting to grips with the offence early on. Quarterback Leendert Van Dalsen didn’t have his finest game of the season but connected with receivers Max Simmons and Oliver Paver early on to complement the dominant running game and get within scoring distance. Joshua Welsh received the ball on a swing pass close to the goal line, put his head down and powered through two defenders for the touchdown to go 6-0 up.

Joshua Welsh running through two defenders – Credit: Two Frog Creative Studios

Welsh’s running back partner, Ed Shelley, was back from injury, and collectively the two formed the foundation for Manchester’s victory. Welsh runs over defenders for fun, and to rub salt into the wounds of the poor pummelled defenders, Shelley’s towering frame comes right back at them in the next play. Shelley extended the Tyrant’s lead to 14-0; he was handed the ball at the 10-yard line, ran up the middle, juked a defender and went over the goal line for his 8th touchdown of the year.

Defensively the Tyrants had one of their best showings all season. This is because of the depth of talent at each position. The defensive line is always a handful for opposing teams. James Hunt and Destiny Olusegun consistently apply pressure to the quarterback and bat balls down but haven’t quite produced the sacks this year. At linebacker, Louis Audibert flies about the field, ruining the opposing teams’ game plan; his brilliant performances this year have earned him a call-up to the GB Lions U19 squad. And defensive backs Nelson Hamilton, Pierce Lüthi, and Josh Kinnear have been tough matchups for opposing wide receivers.

Nelson Hamilton making a tackle – Credit: Two Frog Creative Studios

Thanks, in large part, to the defence, the Tyrants came into the postseason as champions, which means they secured home-field advantage for their first two playoff games. This matchup with Scottish opposition demonstrated why it is so necessary to claim that prize. 

The Stirling Clansmen had to make the near 500-mile round trip for the game, a level of commitment that should be applauded, but an inconvenience a team could do without. Arduous journey aside, Stirling’s defeat was likely due to the much smaller playing squad the Scots had at their disposal. 

Prior to kickoff, you could easily see the mismatch in the depth of the playing squads. The Tyrants have a fair amount of cover across multiple positions, whereas Stirling only had a few extra men outside of the starting 11s on offence and defence. And fatigue in the latter stages of the game played its part in the final result.

Just before the half, Stirling put together an impressive drive built around the shifty running backs Finlay Ramsay and TC Masango. Masango was electric on the possession. It was one of those occasions where the coach just needed to keep feeding the player. Stirling Quarterback Jaxen Fischer found the free receiver Jay McPherson on a nicely designed out route, which saw him go in untouched for the six points. Masango added the extra two points to make it 14-8 after being bundled over the line by the scrum that formed around him shy of the goal line. 

It just wasn’t to be for the Clansmen on the day. They showed some glimpses of what got them to the playoffs but were out-classed by the Tyrants. The game-winning drive featured another ridiculous catch from Max Simmons who clasped the ball to his helmet, vaguely reminiscent of the famous David Tyree catch for the New York Giants. Ed Shelley added a receiving touchdown to his tally to stretch the home team’s lead to 20-8. And the game was as good as done.

The Tyrants rested the majority of their starters in the remainder of the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, starting offensive lineman Matt Powell went down with a bad knee injury, ending his impressive rookie season on a sour note. 

Two more games stand between the Tyrants and a national championship final. The University of Warwick Wolves (6-3) make the journey to Manchester on March 3 looking to extend their playoff run. 

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