By Rich Jones
Cardiff Cobras echoed in a new era with a hard-fought 14-12 away win over the Exeter Demons last weekend.
The Cobras, who suffered a heart-breaking play-off defeat against arch rivals Swansea last season, got their BUCS 1A South West campaign off to a perfect start.
After seeing head coach Ben Watkins depart during the off-season due to a new job in London, they are now under the guidance of former player Sean Patrick Cook.
They have also lost a number of key starters to graduation, especially on defence, leaving them facing a tough challenge in order to go one better than last year.
Yet they dispelled any doubts regarding their character with a determined display in a tense encounter against the Demons.
There was little to separate the sides early on, with some cagey opening exchanges and uncharacteristic mistakes from the Cobras leaving the game scoreless at half-time.
Despite the visitors showing plenty of promising signs in the first half, it was the home side who broke the deadlock early in the third quarter.
They capitalised upon an interception on the Cobras’ first play from scrimmage in the second half to punch in a touchdown and take a 6-0 lead.
But the visitors responded in stunning fashion, with running back Carwyn Chamberlain springing clear for a 50-yard run before rookie Quarterback Max Milburn found rookie Wide Receiver Jak Canham in the back of the end zone to cap off a remarkable 99-yard touchdown drive.
Canham duly slotted over the extra point to give them a slender 7-6 lead – although that advantage was extended following the first play of the fourth quarter.
Another composed drive from QB Milburn ended with him running in from a yard out to put the Cobras 14-6 ahead entering the closing stages.
Exeter nonetheless would not lie down, and they launched a late drive culminating in a 12-yard touchdown run to set up a nervy finale.
A missed extra point after their first touchdown left the Demons needing to go for two points in order to force overtime, and the Cobras held firm to secure a winning start to the season.
It was a far from perfect performance from the Cobras, but they will be keen to focus on a number of positives.
Milburn starred on his debut and was awarded the overall MVP, whilst second year Linebacker Tom Earl played a key role at the heart of a brave defensive effort.
With a number of rookies contributing early in the season and several experienced players still left standing at important positions, there is plenty of reason for optimism in the Cobras camp.
They were due to take on the Solent Redhawks at Llanrumney on Sunday before returning to action at home against the UWE Bullets on Sunday, November 27.