Watford came into the game against Bury Saints on a high, following their 42-0 victory over the Ipswich Cardinals the previous weekend. In a bruising encounter, it was the Cheetahs that would emerge with the W, as defences dominated the day and flags flew.
If the Cheetahs had expected to post a scoreline as gaudy as their 42 point haul against the Cardinals the previous weekend, they were to be disappointed, as the Bury D proved resilient, restricting the Cheetahs to just one early solitary score. That score came on their first drive of the game, with the offence set up in great field position following an INT (by #27 Danny Morton I think) on the Saints’ first play. The Cheetahs offence moved the ball both through the air and on the ground, and eventually bowled its way into the endzone for the score by (FB #48 Alan Harris ), which was followed by a the PAT conversion by Morton.
The Saints responded quickly, moving into the redzone after some great running. A false start penalty drained the Saints momentum though and the Cheetahs D forced the turnover on downs. Bury’s D responded almost immediately, picking off a pass 3 plays later to set their own offence up in great field position, though the offence again was unable to capitalise, turning the ball over on downs.
The teams traded possessions again and following a Cheetah’s punt, Bury’s offence again turned the ball over, with LB Tim Bond picking the ball off and returning to set up the Watford offence with good field position. Watford moved the ball toward the endzone with a steady diet of the run game, but Bury showed their fighting spirit to pick off a pass in the endzone and return the ball deep into Cheetah’s territory.
Bury’s next possession was marred by mistakes and penalties which cost them a chunk of yardage. With little choice but to pass, the Saint’s offence turned the ball over with the third Cheetahs INT on the day. After trading punts, the Cheetahs found themselves in range for a field goal attempt, though K Danny Morton was unable to convert, sending the ball wide left of the posts. The half ended shortly after the FG with the 7-0 scoreline bythe whistle serving to underline not only the tough, physical style of defence on display from both teams, but also the wealth of missed opportunities for the opposing offences.
Bury had come into the game relatively unknown, their only previous game having been a victory over the Essex Spartans. But they acquitted themselves strongly on the day, their defence swarming the ball carrier, and their running game also flashing occasional excellence, ripping off chunks of yardage at a time. For all the flashes, however, they struggled against a strong Cheetahs’ D that has pitched two shutouts so far this season, and was in no mood to surrender its chance of a third.
The second half saw the teams trading possessions, both offences moving the ball, but stalling short of scoring range. Bury’s offence thought they had been given the break they needed, following a penalty for a horse-collar tackle on the QB, but with the story becoming rather repetitive, the Cheetahs D turned the ball over, recovering a fumble following a jarring tackle near their own goal line, stopping the Saints short.
Not to be denied, Bury forced a turnover of their own, setting themselves up inside the 10. They finally got their score with a QB run to the outside, making it 7-6. However, they squandered the opportunity to draw level, with the PAT miss allowing #3 Jason Scurfield to scoop the loose football up near the sideline and return it to the Bury endzone for a precious 2 points. However, the Cheetahs return convoy was blissfully unaware of the flurry of flags that now littered the field behind them, with offsetting penalties for holding on Bury and blocking in the back on Watford resulting simply in a missed PAT attempt, chalking off the score and leaving the margin between the sides 1 point.
If dominant D was the theme of the day, then its fair to say that both teams suffered their share of problems on offence, with numerous turnovers, and a string of penalties costing each side yardage and in the case of Watford, personnel. Both offences dug themselves holes too deep to climb out of at various points, with false starts plaguing the Bury OL late on, while indiscipline cost Watford’s offence a member of their line, with an ejection coming following two flags for personal fouls on the same play.
Watford were offered a chance to extend their lead to four in the fourth quarter, though K Danny Morton was unable to get any height under the ball, blasting it into the line to lead to a turnover on downs leading to a nail-biting last few minutes. The sides again exchanged possessions, as Watford looked to run out the clock. Bury’s D had other ideas, forcing the punt, but a low snap meant that P Danny Morton’s knee touched the ground, giving Bury the opportunity to win the game with a field goal. The Cheetahs defence stood strong though, and left it up to the offence kneel it out for the victory. Both sides may not have felt fully satisfied with the final result, but at the end of the day, Watford will be content to have their third win on the spin, while Bury will be cheered by what was a promising performance on their part.
Game report by Chris Beech
Photo copyright Garry Neesam Photography.