Wroclaw Panthers, Warsaw Eagles win opening games in Poland’s Topliga season

The defending Polish champion Wroclaw Panthers opened the season in Poland the way they finished it in 2016, by rolling over the Gdynia Seahawks in the opening weekend of Poland’s Topliga.

Meanwhile, the Warsaw Eagles spoiled the opening game hopes of the Tychy Falcons handing them their first defeat in over a year.

Wrocław Panthers 35 – Gdynia Seahawks 7 (in Gdynia)

Photo: Zodiak – Zofia Roszkowska

Last year’s Topliga season ended with the Wrocław Panthers recording a comprehensive victory over the Gdynia Seahawks in Poland’s biggest game. The 2017 season started in much the same way on Saturday, with the Panthers stifling the Seahawks in a 35-7 rout and staking an early claim for a return ticket to the SuperFinal.

Timothy Morovick shone in his Panthers debut, throwing for 276 yards and adding 55 more on the ground. Morovick exploited a porous Seahawks defense in the first half, relentlessly hitting open receivers and methodically driving Wrocław down the field time and time again. The Panthers led 14-0 after a quarter after touchdown receptions by Patryk Matkowski and Wiktor Zięba.

Photo: Zodiak – Zofia Roszkowska

Zięba finished the contest with 104 receiving yards, with 63 of them coming on that first-quarter score. The Wrocław receiver caught a short pass near midfield and outraced the entire Seahawks secondary on his way up the left sideline. Gdynia’s defense never really recovered, and Morovick and Konrad Starczewski finished off long drives with short touchdown runs in the second quarter to make it 28-0 in favor of the defending champions.

The Seahawks showed some signs of life in the fourth quarter, when a double-covered Jakub Mazan tiptoed the end line and somehow managed to haul in a 12-yard touchdown pass that finally gave the fans at the National Rugby Stadium something to cheer about. It was little consolation, however, for those fans who have grown used to their team being among the favorites to contend for the Polish championship. For now, it is the Panthers who sit comfortably atop that mountain.

Seahawks (0-1): at Husaria Szczecin (0-0), April 1
Panthers (1-0): vs. Białystok Lowlanders (0-0), April 2

Warsaw Eagles 42 – Tychy Falcons 20 (in Tychy)

Photo: J’S Photography

The Warsaw Eagles spoiled the Topliga debut of the Tychy Falcons on Saturday evening, taking advantage of Falcons mistakes in the second quarter to open up a big halftime lead on their way to a 42-20 victory in Tychy. Ezekiel Graham scored three touchdowns for the victors while the Falcons, the runaway PLFA I champions from 2016, fell apart after losing quarterback Shane Truelove to injury midway through the first half.

Both defenses dominated during a scoreless opening period, but it was the Eagles defense that took over the game in the second quarter. A pair of turnovers led to the first 14 Warsaw points, which came on a Konrad Filipiak touchdown reception and a Daniel Tarnawski fumble recovery in the end zone. The Falcons attack struggled greatly in the aftermath of Truelove’s departure, and their next possession resulted in a safety. Eagles quarterback Karol Żak then scored from a yard out to make it 23-0 in favor of Warsaw at the intermission.

Photo: J’S Photography

The second half was largely a story of two players, Graham for the Eagles and Grzegorz Dominik for the Falcons. Dominik scored three times after the break, with each touchdown coming in a different manner. He ran a kickoff back for a score after Graham’s first touchdown run, he matched Graham’s second touchdown run with one of his own and he scored the game’s final points on a 75-yard punt return. By then, however, the Eagles already had the game well in hand.

Falcons (0-1): vs. Husaria Szczecin (0-0), April 8
Eagles (1-0): vs. Wrocław Outlaws (0-0), April 1


Saturday, April 1, 4:30 PM: Husaria Szczecin (0-0) vs. Gdynia Seahawks (0-1)
Saturday, April 1, 5:15 PM: Warsaw Eagles (1-0) vs. Wrocław Outlaws (0-0)