The Cheetahs heightened the pressure on the table-topping Dreadnoughts Sunday, dominating the Swindon Storm with a shutout 34-0 victory. On a baking hot afternoon in St Albans, the Cheetahs knew that nothing less than a win would do in their quest to reach Division 1. The home side also knew from the reverse fixture that the Storm were no pushovers – a winless record belying the talent they have, especially on defence.
An early 3-and-out from the Cheetahs own D set the tone early for what was a brutal performance from the unit, who barely gave up anything all day. The Offence, fresh off putting up 110 points the week previously, found it a little trickier against a stout Swindon side who were set up well to try and neuter some of the home side’s key threats. However, it didn’t take long before the blue wall was broken. A strong run from Conor Wilson put the Cheetahs on the edge of the endzone, before QB Martin Brown showed superb awareness to read the flow of the defence and escape to the edge, where a lunge put him over the line for the opening score.
The Storm are surely sick of the sight of WR Rowan Huggins who, having had a monster game away in Swindon, added another touchdown following an extended drive for the home side. QB Martin Brown placed a perfect ball over the top where only Huggins could get it to extend the score. The Cheetahs got the ball back almost immediately afterwards, when a monstrous hit from CB Charles Kahonde popped the ball free and was recovered by the D. The O didn’t convert this time around, but once again the D provided them with another chance when LB Jordan Legge made an athletic interception in Swindon territory. Unfortunately a game of ping pong was developing, as it was Swindon’s turn to pick the ball off themselves. The game appeared to be settling down into a slower rhythm as a few drives culminating in punts ensued, before superb blocking and excellent patience from RB Conor Wilson sprung him free for a huge punt return all the way to the house. Whilst not killing the game off, that score allowed the Cheetahs sideline to breathe a little more easily.
Not that there was any let up. The defence in particular were aware of the importance that a shutout might have further down the road, and performed admirably to keep the away side out of the endzone. Multiple sacks from DE Kayode Sampson, as well as intense pressure from LB Jordan Legge, gave the away QB nowhere to go and little hope of bringing his team back into the game. The ball remained firmly camped in Storm territory for much of the second half as the Cheetahs aimed to see out the game effectively. Huggins added his second TD of the game following another perfect pass from Brown, before a couple of late interceptions were exchanged – Charles Kahonde grabbing the ball back for the home side after the Cheetahs had coughed it up on the previous drive. The Cheetahs took advantage of the turnover this time: RB Adam Adeniji rewarded for his hard running as he pounded in from short yardage as the clock wound down.
The Cheetahs saw out the remaining moments without ever looking truly threatened, but will be pleased that they managed to put up what was an important scoreline against decent opponents.
“This could possibly be a landmark performance from our defence”. Those were the words of HC Craig Barnes, after another shutout from his defensive unit. That performance included allowing a miserly 20 yards total offence, eight sacks, and two interceptions. Further, Barnes said “I am delighted with how the defence played, they are now the hunting pack I envisioned at the start of the season. Offence was functional, we are still scoring at a high rate. Special Teams are also putting a marker down, with a TD and consistently good field position. They are making their team mates’ jobs a whole lot easier. We are all champing at the bit to get at Bournemouth on the 8th of July.”
Offensive Coordinator Will Sparke paid tribute to the opposing D, noting that “Swindon are a tough team on defence and the game reflected that. None the less, we were supported by a defence that is beginning to catch fire and we finished with the result we wanted. We are now turning out attention to the Bobcats and the need to finish the year stronger than we started.”
The importance of the third phase was widely recognised during the game. Special Teams Captain Conor Wilson was pleased that “as a unit, special teams did well. We executed in all phases, giving us good field position and limiting [Swindon] to start within their own 25. However we do not want to rest on our laurels and know we still have a lot to work on to get the perfection we desire.”
Rushing Yards: 116
Receiving Yards: 141
Rushing Yards Allowed: 11
Receiving Yards Allowed: 9
Rushing: Adam Adeniji, Martin Brown
Receiving: Rowan Huggins (2)
Special Teams: Conor Wilson
Rushing Yards: Adam Adeniji (85)
Receiving Yards: Rowan Huggins (93)
Sacks: Kayode Sampson (3)
Tackles: Jordan Legge (5)
Interceptions: Jordan Legge, Charles Kahonde (1)
The Cheetahs have a short break before they return to action with a visit from the 2-3 Bournemouth Bobcats.