DIVISION 1 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 2019


The game pitted the #1 seed in the North (Sandwell Steelers) against the #1 seed from the South (Solent Thrashers).

The Steelers had breezed through their Division with a 10-0 record in the NFC 1 South scoring 470 points and conceding just 48.

The Thrashers had a similar 10-0 record in the SFC 1 Central Division scoring 342 points and conceding 85.

In the Quarter Finals however the roles were somewhat reversed with the Steelers only just scraping past the East Kilbride Pirates (21-20) while the Thrashers despatched the London Hornets comprehensively with a shut out (31-0)

The Semi Finals saw both teams meet there respective Regional #2 seeds. This time the Steelers appeared to have the easier passage defeating the Northumberland Vikings 21-3 while the Thrashers trailed at half time against the Cambridgeshire Cats but came back to win 20-13 to set up the clash of the #1 seeds.

Controversy preceded the Final as the Thrashers, the designated away team based on the respective regular season points against records, were belatedly refused permission to wear their usual black shirts against the Steelers grey. With their change strip being grey they were forced to accept the kind offer of the Kent Exiles to wear Exiles white shirts for the final - causing some confusion for the viewing spectators.

Pre-game most pundits agreed that the Steelers were the favourites - based mainly around their fast paced aerial attack which it was assumed would outpace the run first Thrasher philosophy.

Thrasher Head Coach Steve Rains and Defensive Co-ordinator Graham Jessett had masterminded Championship Final wins together before, Rains with 4 wins from 6 Bowl games - but significantly a perfect record at Tier 2 Finals (Wins in 2000, 2007 and 2015). The Thrashers therefore prepared thoroughly staying overnight at Hertfordshire University to ensure they hit the ground running (literally as it turned out!).


Kick Off

The Steelers won the toss and decided to take the ball. The Thrashers CFL trialist Will Elgeti boomed the ball into the endzone - the Steelers returner brought out to the 20 but a holding call sent them back to start their first series on their own 10yd line.

A fruitless run, a 5yd completion and another fruitless run saw the Thrasher Defense deliver a quick 3 and out. The failure of the Steelers running game to make any impression on the Thrashers would become a key feature of the game as the swarming Thrasher interior defenders led by Jack Bradford snuffed out any threat.

A poor Steeler punt saw the Thrashers set up on the Sandwell 30yd line for their first Offensive series.

Running Back Adam Bowley followed his blocks over the left side for a 5yd gain, on 2nd down he streaked 25yds over the right side for the games opening Touchdown. Inside 3 minutes the underdog Thrashers led 7-0.

The Thrashers Special Teams were on fire and stopped the returner on the Kick Off at the 10 - a penalty took the ball half the distance to the goaline and the Steelers were backed up at their 5yd line.

A fruitless run again on first down was followed by a Jason Oluwa apparent sack in the endzone causing Steelers QB Varney to fumble - the Thrashers recovered the ball. The man on the spot however ruled it an incomplete pass and the commentators agreed that the Steelers had dodged a bullet.

On the very next play Thrashers Safety Ali Hugo let a clear Interception opportunity slip through his hands - but the Steelers were forced to punt.

Jean-Alex "Titi" Geas took the punt at the 28yd line but the Sandwell coverage team did well stopping him for no gain.

The Thrasher drive ended in a blocked Field Goal attempt and the Steeler Offense then got into gear - still no luck on the ground but successive passes brought up 1st Downs - the second one a significant gain to the Thrashers 10yd line.

The Thrasher Defense appeared to have held firm - but the Steelers decided to go on 4th and 1 from the 1yd line and Varney found his receiver to square up the game 7-7 with 5 minutes left in the first quarter.

Dayle Greenfield caught the ensuing kick off at the 15yd line followed some crushing blocks over the left side and was on his way to the endzone when a brilliant last gasp tackle knocked the ball from his grasp at the 3yd line - it bounced out through the back of the endzone. Ruled a fumble the Thrashers had a scoring opportunity disappear and lost the ball on the Touchback ruling.

The next Steeler series was ended on Thrashers DE Jason Oluwa's first recorded sack of the day - he would go on to be a genuine MVP candidate as he terrorised the Steelers Offensive backfield all day.

Both teams had promising drives during the remainder of the 2nd Quarter - all of which came to nothing. For the Thrashers Full Back Tom Bane powered to 2 first downs to put his team in a scoring position but the Steelers stood firm. Thrashers Linebackers Dan McMillan and Paddy Tickner led the gang tackling and that man Oluwa kept adding to his Sack total - the half ended predictably with one of those sacks - Half time 7-7.