JUNIORS: A New Era. Chapter 1, Growing Pains…

JUNIORS: A New Era. Chapter 1, Growing Pains…

Written by Jonty Tatchell.

On a warm Easter Sunday, the Hertfordshire Cheetahs hosted a well-oiled London Blitz side in a tough, physical game that failed to result in the winning comeback Cheetahs fans had been hoping for. In a 48-0 loss to the Blitz, the Cheetahs showed flashes of brilliance alongside spells of play that highlighted the naivety and inexperience in the young squad.

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Starting on offence, the Cheetahs were given the chance to show BritBall nation how far they had come, ball in hand. With a few successful rushes from RB Earp and QB Abegglen, the Pride seemed to be getting off to a promising start. However, a painful dropped catch forced the Cheetahs to punt, giving the Blitz their first possession of the game. After an impressive stop out of the gate, the
defence struggled on subsequent series to cope with the physicality and rushing game of the Blitz offence. The Cheetahs were quickly pressed back to their own 20 after multiple outside runs from the Blitz RB. B

y the end of Q1, the Cheetahs were unable to hold the Blitz O any longer and the visitors scored their first TD of the afternoon, tacking on the two-point conversion.

After the opening score, the floodgates opened for the Blitz with 28 further points posted in the first half. The Cheetahs D struggled to cope with the Blitz running game, whilst consistent pressure and poor execution on O stifled momentum.

Fortunately for the Cheetahs, they were able to halt the Blitz’s barrage of points in the second half, with both defences putting on an impressive show – allowing very few first downs. No matter how hard star performer Earp and others tried to breakthrough, the Cheetahs were unable to capitalise offensively.  Before the half, Blitz had a TD called back after some premature showboating from the wanting scorer. This left the score at 36-0 as the teams went in to the halftime break.

Head Coach Alex Halms had some harsh words at the interval, pointing out where his players needed to improve to take the fight to the Blitz. The first half was a reality check for many young Cheetahs, who knew they were going to have to step up to be taken seriously. Water on board and injuries strapped up, the Cheetahs were ready to come out fighting.

Starting the second half with a long kick from K Abegglen, the Cheetahs appeared to have pushed the Blitz deep into their own half, giving the D best chance of changing the tone. Regrettably, missed tackles led to a long kick return and good field position for the Blitz O. Two quick touchdowns followed, the first from an outside run left, the second a RB smash through the middle of the defence.  This put the nail in the Cheetah’s coffin and brought the score to 48-0 half way through Q3.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 10.08.42The Cheetahs didn’t give up, and on the next drive they started well with some ballet skills from KR Best, as he sought to find a gap through the oncoming Blitz attackers. The Cheetahs offence was led by QB Abegglen and the RBs, as the game descended into an attrition-strewn rushing war, with the Cheetahs countering pressure from the Blitz LBs and DEs. During the final two quarters, the ball was passed back and forth with neither team willing to give-in until the final whistle. The Cheetahs made huge strides as the Blitz rotated in some back-ups deep into the fourth.

Inevitably, the post-game debrief was hard to take. Nonetheless, players and coaches alike were cautiously optimistic. All Cheetahs learned important lessons from the loss; and the Coaches were able to identify issues to be addressed in the upcoming training sessions.

Coach Halms said “There were some excellent moments during the game.  Many of you [Cheetahs] played with heart and showed what you are capable of. However, in the end, there were too many lapses in concentration and a lack of aggression and execution.  Ultimately, very simple things cost us.  We will learn from this experience, draw a line in the sand, and set our sights on Sunday’s training. This is just the next step in our journey.”

It was clear to see from this game, that the Cheetahs have come a long way from having two players just fifteen months ago. The foundations and talent are there, but there is still a lot of work to do if the team is to truly show what it is capable of.

This game hurt, but as a team we implore you to come support us and show the heart and soul of the Cheetah Pride when we square off in our next league fixture – away at the Essex Spartans on Sunday 7 May (12pm KO).

The players would like to thank the London Blitz for their sportsmanship and congratulate them for their win. We wish them luck in their push for the BritBowl and we hope to see you again, wounds healed, in the post-season.

All photo credits: GLN Photography

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