Swindon Storm vs Cornish Sharks Match Report: 12/04/2015
Last year, the Storm hosted the Sharks in what turned out to be a 52-13 beatdown. The following rematch, meant to be hosted in Cornwall, was cancelled, not giving Cornwall the chance to seek revenge.
This year, Cornwall had the chance to avenge their heavy loss with the opening game of the season for these two smash-mouth teams. The Storm, missing a few experienced starters on both sides of the ball, fielded a large number of rookies, giving them invaluable game time and competitive reps, but came at the expense of veteran knowledge, which proved to be the difference in a hard-fought defensive matchup.
Storm kicked the game off with a short squib kick to prevent a long return from the Sharks’ special teams unit, putting faith in the gritty Storm defence to stop the Sharks from capitalising on a short field. This faith did not pay off on the first drive, however, as the Sharks’ running back capitalised on a hole in the middle of the O-line to build up speed and steamroll through the Storm’s safety, only to fumble the ball, however, the Storm were unable to capitalise and failed to recover the fumble.
The Sharks continued to pound the rock with a QB keeper to the outside next, with the QB making some space after juking past some Storm players, but was unable to quite make it into the endzone, landing on the 1 yard line. The Sharks’ returned to their staple play next, handing the ball to their stocky running back to punish the Storm up the middle and bundle into the endzone. The Sharks tried to compensate for the gusty weather by adjusting their extra point kick, however this flew well wide of the uprights. 6-0 Sharks after their first drive.
The Storm opened their first drive similarly to Cornwall, breaking out a long run up the middle with some great blocking from the O-line. A false start penality on the next play made a first down for the Storm tough; a series of stops after the Storm continued to test the Sharks’ D with a mix of reverses, inside and outside runs, however some good gang tackling on the Sharks’ defence saw the Storm unable to make the long first down on their first drive. Storm Punt.
Some poor tackling on the Storm special team outfit gave the Sharks’ punt returner an open lane, forcing Punter Brent Johnson-Flippance to make an outstanding open-field touchdown-saving tackle.
The Sharks, now in good field position thanks to the effective blocking of their special teams unit, stuck to their game plan and gave the ball to their running back once more to no avail, with the Storm defence making amends for their last drive and forcing a 3rd and long for Cornish. For the first time the Sharks attempted a pass, resulting in some great work from the Storm D-line, breaking through the O-line and forcing the QB into a scramble which ended in a completed pass for the Sharks’, however, it was behind the first down marker.
The Sharks’ weak punt afforded the Storm a short field, with Rookie Quarterback Greg Rocow, recently transferred from the Watford Cheetahs, making the first down pass on the first play of the new drive. A pass play resulting in a sack followed by a stuffed run at the line at scrimmage made 3rd down tough for the Storm, however HB Brent Johnson-Flippance broke off a long outside run, achieving the first and giving the Storm 3 more downs. Contrasting the speed of HB Brent Johnson-Flippance with the raw power of HB Dan Thorne resulted in a large gain through the middle, culminating in a touchdown from a QB Greg Roscow on a designed QB run play. The XP was duly kicked by Luke McEnroe. 7-6 Storm.
After the short return thanks to some great special teams work from Swindon, the Sharks returned to their power run game; the now-wise Storm defence held strong and forced a 3rd and long for the Cornish. The ensuing QB keeper allowed the Cornish Quarterback to move past the Storm D-line, however some good awareness from Safety Martin Rains saw him race downfield to tackle the Cornish QB out of bounds before making the first down. Cornwall Punt.
Swindon attempted a pass to HB Brent Johnson-Flippance on a wheel route after a powerful run from Lee Owen, however, this resulted in a pick thanks to some good adjustments made by the Cornish Sharks. QB Greg Roscow made amends for the pick with a good tackle on the Shark.
The Sharks, now in great field position after the long return, attempted to power run their way into the Swindon endzone, however, LB Aaron Moody had other ideas, stuffing an outside run for a loss on 2nd down. The Cornish Sharks stuck with the run on 3rd and 4th down, however, LB Aaron Moody came through yet again on 4th down to tackle the Sharks’ running back and give the Storm offence the ball deep in their own half.
A series of powerful inside runs from HB Dan Thorne moved the chains for Swindon, who decided on 1st down to test the Cornish Defensive Backs once more, however, the deep pass nearly resulted in a pick, with the Cornish DB dropping the wayward pass. The following inside runs and passes resulted in small gains and dropped passes, which, after failing to convert at midfield on 4th down, gave the Cornish Sharks great field position and a good chance to earn a two-possession lead.
The stout Storm D-line once again stuffed the power run, resulting in the Sharks testing the Storm’s secondary, which led to a touchdown after a long pass over the middle. Sharks’ XP was good. 13-7 Sharks.
The Storm, after a decent kick return, had to drive all of 75 yards with little time left to gain the lead. A well-executed reverse to HB Curtis Malcolm led to a huge gain, giving the Storm offence a chance to put some points on the board before the half. After the initial success on the outside with the reverse, the Cornish defence regained composure and stuffed two outside runs from the Storm. This led to a pass over the middle to perennial starter WR Alwyn Thorne-Griffith, however, the normally reliable receivers’ hands betrayed him after the pass flew through his fingertips on 3rd down. Storm Punt.
With little left to play in the first half, Cornwall attempted a deep pass to extend their lead going into half-time, however, the Storm D-line gave the QB no time, forcing an incomplete pass. Some great tackling from the Storm Linebacking corps stopped the Sharks consistently on the final drive of the first half, resulting in the whistle blowing, signalling the end of the half.
At half-time, the score was 13-7 Cornwall.
The Storm started with the ball for the 3rd Quarter, and started as they meant to go on; great blocking from the entire team allowed QB Greg Roscow big yards on a QB keeper. Sadly, a combination of penalties, inaccurate passing and poor execution killed the Storm’s first drive, ultimately resulting in a pick from QB Greg Roscow; yet again, however, he hustled hard to make up for his mistake and tackled the Defensive Back.
Once more, the Sharks were in great field position, only having a short field to contend with for the score, however, Safety Martin Rains came through with the pick to return possession to the Storm… Or so it seemed, as a roughing the passer penalty resulted in the pick being called back. A huge sack from LB Eddie Koppoe forced the Cornish outfit back the following play, ultimately causing a 4th and long after some great run stuffs from the Storm D. The Sharks attempted a pass instead of kicking the field goal, which proved unwise as the pass bounced off of the palms of the Cornish receiver. Swindon ball.
The Storm reverted to their outside run game with a couple of QB runs, however, Cornwall had adjusted effectively, making a 3rd and long for Swindon. Another 3rd down pass to WR Alwyn Thorne-Griffith ended incomplete thanks to a bone-crunching hit by the alert Shark’s secondary. Storm Punt.
Cornwall stuck to their game plan of the power run, which, after three runs out of the I formation lead to a first down for the Sharks, was proving effective. This was confirmed after the Shark’s HB broke through the middle of the Storm D line at speed, once more crushing the Swindon Safety for a big gain. Two plays later, the crowd experienced déjà vu as the same run play up the middle resulted in yet another big gain, ending with the demolition of the Storm safety.
After eating up most of the 3rd quarter with their run game, the Sharks’ entered the 4th with good field position, slowly churning out yards against a fatigued Swindon defence. Cornwall’s drive ended in a field goal, giving them a two possession lead in the 4th quarter.
A touchback on the kickoff meant an 80 yard drive if they were going to score quickly. Storm’s run game wasn’t clicking, however, as they rushed for very little yards, also picking up a false start flag in the process. Third down quickly approached with Cornwall stuffing up Swindon’s run; the result was a 4th down punt.
The Sharks’ wisely continued with their power run game, attempting to use up as much of the remaining time as possible, however, a combination of great D-line work and a false start flag from Cornwall gave Swindon another chance at a comeback with little time left. A good Cornish punt saw Swindon with a long field for the score.
A series of more power runs consistently moved the chains for Swindon, resulting in Cornwall selling out on the inside run, blitzing their Linebackers inside; Swindon capitalised on their eagerness with a reverse to HB Curtis Malcom for a big gain on the outside. HB Dan Thorne took over at QB, utilising his running skills from Quarterback for more large gains. Thorne managed to punch in the ball for a late score, giving Swindon a glimmer of hope with little time left, however, a holding call reversed the call, much to the dismay of Storm. A fumble on the snap on the following play appeared to put Swindon in terrible field position, however, the play was called back on an illegal kicking flag, giving Swindon another chance to capitalise late-on in the match.
A short run from WR Alwyn Thorne-Griffith on a motion brought up 4th down for Swindon facing the Sharks’ endzone, however, the short pass from Dan Thorne was inaccurate and fell incomplete. This effectively ended the game as Cornwall ran out the rest of the clock.
A hard fought classic match with old-school tactics simply came down to a physical matchup, with Cornwall’s size and experience proving to be the difference in what was a very entertaining game.
We managed to catch up with Head Coach Steve Bennett (Who filled in for missing players and played the entire match) after the match for a post-game interview:
“Well played to Cornish, small squad but an old-school thumping game. We weren’t prepared enough; not with the X’s and O’s but more with the Jimmies and Joes. Didn’t have the personnel to deal with their game plan. We’re going to move on starting with film review, and we’re going to make sure we learn and improve.”
Match Report written by Michael Yavuz