Tamworth Phoenx historic, knock off London Blitz to win first ever Britbowl title

The unbeaten Tamworth Phoenix took an early lead and then battled the rest of the way, to defeat the favored London Blitz 34-28 in Britbowl XXXI and win their first ever British American football title.

This was Tamworth’s first appearance in the championship game and they were facing a team that had not missed an appearance in the game since 2006 and won it five times since then. In fact, this was the first Britbowl title for a team not from London since 2008 when the Coventry Cassidy Jets beat the Blitz in the championship game.

Tamworth had advanced to the final after defeating the defending champion and heavily favored London Warriors in a shootout, 38-34. The Blitz downed the Merseyside Nigthhawks in their semifinal.

Phoenix quarterback Patrick Daley was a one-man wrecking crew rushing for 126 yards and two touchdowns and throwing for 90 yards and another touchdown. Wide receiver Will Hussey had two catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Running back Elliot Walters carried the ball 13 times for 53 yards. Alex Lenkowski kicked two field goals and four extra points. Linebacker Ben Davies scored on a 20 yard interception return.

Tamworth Phoenix QB Patrick Daley had a huge day. Photo: Tamworth Phoenix

For the Blitz,  quarterback Joe Thompson was solid completing 15 of 21 passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns and rushed five times for 14 yards. Aaron Linley had five catches for 39 yards and a touchdown while Kyle Jervier also caught a touchdown pass as did Alex Laird.  Glen Mbeleg-Toonga was outstanding on the day rushing for 119 yards and a touchdown.

While the Blitz were the favorites, it was Tamworth who took charge in the early going, with Daley at times putting on a show. Anytime the offense seemed to stall, he would find a seam and take off. He opened the scoring, first marching the Phoenix down into the red zone, and then calling his own number twice in a row, the second time on a six yard plunge, stretching out across the goalline for a 7-0 lead.

Thompson and London answered though with a drive of their own culminating with a six yard scamper from running back Glen Mbeleg-Toonga and midway through the first quarter the game was tied, 7-7.

The second quarter was a see-saw battle as again Daley kept drives alive with his feet. Finally, he pulled Tamworth ahead again, dodging and weaving, breaking four tackles en route to a 39 yard touchdown. Lenkowskis kicked a field goal with under two minutes to go in the first half and the Phoenix held a 17-7 lead.

However, Thompson and the Blitz ran the two-minute drill to perfection and with 30 seconds until halftime, he connected with Kyle Jervier to pull to within three, 17-14.

Tamworth RB Elliot Walters Photo: Tamworth Phoenix

London came out with a textbook drive to start the third quarter and Thompson capped it with a two yard touchdown pass to Aaron Linley to give the Blitz their first lead of the game, 21-17. When it looked as if the Blitz were about to gain the momentum Tamworth’s defense stiffened and the offense responded. Two possessions later, Daley found Hussey on a 32 yard touchdown strike to retake the lead, 24-21.

Blitz RB Glen Mbeleg-Toonga was outstanding Photo: Tamworth Phoenix

The Phoenix defense rose up again keeping Thompson & co. in check but on the next Tamworth possession, Blitz linebacker Eddie Cheadle picked off Daley. The Blitz capitalized with Thompson connecting with Alex Laird from 10 yards out and London went back in front again, 28-24. Tamworth marched down the field again on the next series and Lenkowski kicked a 31 yard field goal at the nine minute mark of the fourth quarter to pull the Phoenix to within one, 28-27.

The Phoenix defense then did the rest as linebacker Ben Davies stepped in front of a pass intended for Laird with eight minutes to go, taking it 20 yards into the end zone and Tamworth retook the lead for good, 34-28.

Both defenses held on and Tamworth came away with an historic win, capturing their first Britbowl title in their first appearance.

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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