UWE Bristol moved one giant step closer to the Premier League South title, and a home tie in the playoffs, after a 32-6 trouncing over the visiting Swansea Titans, who boasted a formidable record going into the game.
The hosts got off to the perfect start, scoring a touchdown straight from kick-off, before a successful two-point conversion made it 8-0 in the opening seconds. After forcing Swansea’s offense to punt, UWE Bullets made it 14-0 two plays later.
Swansea Titans had to hit back with a big score of their own to prevent the Bullets from stretching too far ahead, but after a failed fourth-down conversation at midfield, UWE Bristol’s offense was back out on the field.
In what was a regular occurrence for the Bullets, the mobile quarterback Simon George took matters into his own hands on several occasions, scrambling for the first-down yardage to keep the chains moving. Running backs Thomas Campbell and American transfer Brandon Jones also contributed with big yards, giving UWE Bristol a first-and-goal from close. A series of penalty flags for both sides brought up a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line, which was converted for the Bullets’ third touchdown of the first quarter alone. Going into the second quarter, the score was 20-0 to the hosts.
After restricting the visitors to yet another fourth-down incompletion, the white-hot UWE Bristol offense was back out for their fourth possession of the game, looking to make it four touchdowns. Campbell got the drive off to the perfect start, bursting through the struggling Swansea defensive-line for a big gain. A series of rushes from QB George and the running backs brought up another first-and-goal for the Bullets. As George dropped back into the pocket, Thomas Campbell was wide open in the endzone to catch the pass. Another unsuccessful two-point conversion meant the score was 26-0 to the Bullets going into half-time.
The second-half was far more balanced. US transfer Tyler Zilen forced a fumble, before recovering the ball for a Bullets turnover. Three plays later, the Bullets QB threw his first interception of the game, after throwing a long pass into double-coverage. However, the distance of the throw effectively turned the interception into a decent punt.
Midway through the third quarter, after what was likely the longest drive of the game, the visitors finally put points on the board. After finding a gap in the UWE secondary, their QB was able to throw his first touchdown pass of the day. On the two-point conversion attempt, the versatile American Tyler Zilen made a huge tackle to prevent two more points for the visitors.
On the kick return, Zilen popped up again, breaking several tackles to produce a long kick return. Brandon Jones then made another huge run up the middle to take UWE closer to the endzone. QB Simon George scrambled once again, bringing UWE agonisingly close to their fifth touchdown of the day. On the following play, a wide-open touchdown catch was overruled for offensive holding.
Then, almost identical to the previous play, another touchdown throw was overruled by a penalty flag, this time for illegal tripping. This brought up a long fourth-down, way back at the 25-yard-line. In miraculous fashion, George found UWE Bristol’s wide receiver, who brought in a difficult catch in double-coverage to make the score 32-6 to the Bullets.
A series of interceptions thrown by the visiting QB closed out the game, with the score finishing 32-6 to the UWE Bullets. This was their sixth win out of seven (with their only loss coming on the opening day of the season). Swansea, meanwhile, slumped to back-to-back defeats after losing their previous game at home to Birmingham. UWE Bristol’s only remaining game of the regular season is a visit to Swansea, while the latter still having to visit third-placed Hertfordshire, who themselves aren’t out of contention. If Swansea lose to Hertfordshire this Wednesday, the UWE Bullets will secure first place in the Premier League South.
After the game, UWE Bullets head coach Dan Maher gave his thoughts on the game:
“We deserved to win. The only negative was the amount of penalties, but the positives were scoring points, especially against a team that everything thought would finish above us. I think the guys are happy that they’ve been able to prove they’re the best team in the South.
On whether or it not was a comfortable win:
“It feels comfortable, but at the same time, the penalties make it feel uneasy, but it was a good win.”
He spoke ahead of the next game, a visit to Swansea:
“We’re looking forward to travelling down to Swansea to face them again next weekend. They’ve still got one more game to play before that, so that’ll be interesting. It’ll be interesting to see what their game plan will be against us, whether they think they can beat us, or if they just rotate and rest players.
On the post-season playoff games:
“We’ve got a big decision to make, whether we rest our starters ahead of the first round of the playoffs. We’ve got the quarter-final on the 3rd March, then we get a week off, then if we make it that far, the semi final is on the 17th. Then if we make it past that, it’s the Bowl game, the big North vs South final in Worcester.”
Article written by Matt Williams