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.

The second half

The Thrashers opened the second half on Offense but Sandwell and penalties saw the ball back in Steeler hands quickly and QB Tristan Varney threw his second Touchdown pass on a long catch and run with less that 3 minutes gone in the 3rd Quarter - the extra point was good - 14-7 to the Steelers.

Great defensive play by both teams caused turnovers and those coupled with a fair sprinkling of penalties kept the remainder of the 3rd Quarter scoreless.

So a tight game came down to the final 15 minutes of play - could the Steelers hold on? Could the Thrashers mount a comeback?

It didn't start well for the Thrashers as Sandwell picked off an errant pass which was returned to the Solent 25yd line putting the Steelers in great field position.

Despite Jervace Ramsey-Linton pushing them back on the first play of the series a Varney completion on 3rd down saw the Steelers with 1st and goal inside the Thrasher 5 yd line. Two well defended passes and a fumbled snap saw the Steelers coaching staff presented with a decision to make. At 4th and goal on the 8yd line - FG or go for the TD?

They elected to go for the TD - a pass surely? But no it was a run called and the Thrashers shut it down just as effectively as they had done all day. - with Alex Veitch, Lewis Minns and Jack Bradford all in on the tackle.

Luke Marder came in at QB as the Thrashers tried a specialist formation - unfortunately it resulted in a fairly rapid 3 and out and the Thrashers were forced to punt with time ticking away.

A Lewis Minns sack saw the Steelers lose 10yds on first down and they couldn't recover from that and were forced to punt on 4th Down. Jean Alex "Titi" Geas fielded the punt reversed his path and picked up 12 yds giving the Thrashers a boost of momentum.

Brad Sawyers came back in art QB and was clearly fired up - he hit Matt Hewlett for a first down with the first play and after a short gain on the ground found Joe Pascoe deep downfield for another first down and a significant gain.

Changing up personnel in their multi-set look in came Adam Bowley behind Tom Bane and the Offensive Line who appeared to have suddenly taken control of the situation. It only took one play - Bowley off the right side for his 2nd TD on a searing 32yd run. The PAT was good and the game was tied at 14-14 with just under 9 minutes remaining.

The Steelers made a good KO Return and a Thrasher penalty moved them up into even better field position. First saw another ineffective run and on 2nd down Linebacker Dan McMillan leaped into the air to intercept a Varney pass to give the ball back to the Thrashers with 7 minutes remaining.

Adam Bowley moved the ball on a couple of carries before Efe Collins Eguavon came in and broke two good runs. Back came Bowley but on his second carry he was shaken up and Tom Davies took over for a 3rd down play at the 10yd line - the Steelers held and then managed to block the FG attempt to put the game back on a knife edge.

The 2 minute warning was announced and Varney took the field to attempt to drive the Steelers 83yds to victory.

A short run was followed by what appeared to be a good first down reception - however it had only been achieved through Jason Oluwa on his was to Varney being held - the subsequent penalty saw the Steelers with 2nd down and 16 to go. Two well defended passes saw the Steelers punting with just 1min and 11 seconds remaining.

Could the Thrashers do It?

JA Titi Geas fielded the punt but was quickly stopped after a 5 yd gain at the Steeler 42yd line - this was it - all or nothing - or maybe of course punishing Overtime.

Adam Bowley was still receiving treatment and so it was Tom Davies behind Tom Bane on first down. Davies picked up 3yds as the clock ticked down to 55 seconds.

On second down Tom Davies broke through the right side - cut back and picked up 10yds for a first down at the 29yd line with 47 seconds to go.

First down - and back up QB Luke Marder slipped into the tailback position unannounced - he took the pitch from Sawyers sprinted right and then unleashed a pass in the direction of veteran WR Paul "Toast" Brady. Brady was grabbed by the Defensive Back and the ball fell incomplete - but so too did the penalty flag which set the Thrashers up first down and goal to go on the 13yd line with 42 seconds remaining.

Back came Adam Bowley - he sliced through the right side for a 4yd pick up and 2nd down. 36 seconds remained in the game.

I formation , Ryan Humphries at TE motioned across the formation - the hand off to Adam Bowley going left - LT Mike Wing kicks out the end - LG Adam McClure picks up the Tackle - Centre Rob Bloodworth seals inside, Fullback Tom Bane crushes the Middle Linebacker, Humphries picks up the Safety and drives him off the ball - as they had done all game the Wide Receiver picks up the Steelers RCB - Bowley hits the afterburners and goes into the endzone untouched - TOUCHDOWN THRASHERS!!

Will Elgetti slots the vital extra point Thrashers lead for the second time in the game 21-14.

With 22 seconds remaining Sandwell received the Elgetti kick off - the returner tried to reverse his field - but this time covering instead of returning kicks it was "Titi" Geas in kick coverage who brought him crashing down at the 10yd line .

1st down incomplete pass - 18 seconds remaining. 2nd Down QB Varney goes to the air again - but its intercepted by Alex Veitch and the Thrashers win the National Championship!!

The moment...

Solent knelt out the remaining time - and changed back into their own black shirts to receive the trophy after what all concerned agreed was a fantastic game.

Adam Bowley with 24 carries for 179yds and 3TD's was named the games MVP.

Thrashers Defensive Co-Coordinator Graham Jessett said "I could not be more proud - we were underestimated possibly because we had some tougher games in our regular season but this Defensive Group are special - none more so that Jason Oluwa - he had 4 Sacks today but add on the number of holding penalties he drew and you can see why he could easily have been the MVP, the stop at the beginning of the 4th Q when they were up by a score and had 1st Down inside our 5yd line changed the momentum"

Head Coach Steve Rains agreed and said "We have worked three years to get to this point and I am proud of the team, my staff and the club - we move on now to the next chapter and next challenge at the top tier - we will be written off again - lets see what happens. Adam Bowley was exceptional today playing hard and playing hurt he put himself on the line for his teammates a great MVP performance - of course the first thing he will say is he owes it all to the blocking of the whole unit and to the entire backfield group who stepped up when they were needed.
The Defense has been outstanding all year and the fact we rotated this big squad on both sides of the ball during the season not only kept people happy it meant we had a tremendous depth of experience when it was needed "

Key Thrasher Stats:

  • Brad Sawyers 7 of 17 for 58yds 1Int

  • Joe Pascoe 2 receptions 28yds

  • Matt Hewlett 2 receptions 16yds

  • Dayle Greenfield 1 Reception for 13yds

  • Adam Bowley 24 carries for 179yds 3TD

  • Efe Collins 5 Carries 39yds

  • Tom Davies 8 carries 17yds

  • Tom Bane 2 Carries 14yds

  • Dan McMillan 5 Solo , 5 Assists, 1 Sack , 1 Int

  • Jason Oluwa 5 Assists, 4 Sacks

  • Lewis Minns 3 Solo, 2 Assists , 1 Sack

  • Alex Veitch 2 Solo, 1 Assist , 1 Int

  • Jack Bradford 7 Assists

  • Peter Macey 5 Solo, 1 Assist , 1PD

Watch the whole game here:

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