By Ross Geller
In their first National Championship appearance in three years (having won the National Plate last year) the Cardiff Cobras spectacularly defeated the Oxford Brookes Panthers to secure their place in the next round of the National Championships.
With a little help from the scheduling gods, Oxford Brookes had notched up an impressive 7-1 record over the regular season a great feat for a third-year team.
Oxford Brookes won the toss, but deferred, allowing the Cobras to choose to return the kick off and set their offence out first. The first drive proved fruitless as a result Cardiff were forced to punt on fourth down. The Cobras defence then took to the field looking to shut out Oxford Brookes, but ill discipline eventually conceded a touchdown.
After minor skirmishes from both teams, Cardiff eventually broke the deadlock with a monster punt from kicker Chris Caldwell, which Oxford Brookes mistakenly fielded at the one-yard line. A muffed long snap sailed out of reach of the punter and out of the end zone for a safety, leaving the score at Cardiff 2, Oxford Brookes 7.
There were no more scores until the fourth quarter, but plenty of changes of possession with mistakes from Cardiff’s running backs and Brookes’ quarterbac.
The Cobras offence eventually put together a successful drive with time running out, culminating in a touchdown for rookie running back, Ben Fowle. Richard Gardner converted the two-point conversion and Cardiff led,10-7.
Cardiff’s defence knew it was on them to finish off the game, following some more monster hits from middle line-backer Ollie Devon, and blanket coverage from the defensive backs Oxford Brookes eventually started to panic. Line-backer Luke Haslett, who returned it 30 yards for the score.
The remaining minute and a half saw a return of the normal run of the game; with both defences making solid tackles, the offences stuttered until the referees called the game
MVP awards went to Pete Brockway on defence and to Ayo Akintunde and Chris Caldwell on offence, all for outstanding performances.
Cardiff will now face the Hertfordshire Hurricanes in the quarter-finals, a strong team who will test the Cobras’ talent, the winner progressing to the last four.