For the past several years, the East Kilbride Pirates and Tamworth Phoenix have waged an annual war for Premiership North supremacy in Great Britain’s British American Football Association National Leagues.
East Kilbride has usually held an edge. The Pirates has finished first in the division every year since 2012 with the Phoenix right behind. Normally, the teams only lose to each other during the regular season and only by the closest of scores. In fact, the Pirates had not been beaten at home in eight years.
This year there has been a shift it seems. The Phoenix, playing in the hostile confines of East Kilbride’s home park, Hamilton Rugby Field, in Scotland in front of a packed, normally cheering crowd, delivered a beating to their arch rivals thumping them 55-7. This is the type of score normally reserved for teams in the bottom rungs of American football in Great Britain. Not one of the top four teams in the UK for the past several years.
How do you explain a game like this? This was the opening game of the season for the Phoenix. The Pirates had opened their season with an impressive performance against the Lancashire Wolverines, shutting them out 20-0. In 2015, East Kilbride defeated Tamworth 21-14.
On this day, though, Tamworth simply outplayed the Pirates in every phase of the game.
Following an even first quarter which saw the Phoenix take a 14-7 lead, Tamworth exploded for 27 unanswered points in the second quarter and went into halftime ahead 41-7.
Tamworth added two more touchdowns in the third quarter to round out the scoring. The fourth quarter ended scoreless mercifully for East Kilbride as both sides substituted liberally giving younger players playing time.
Phoenix quarterback Pat Daley had a field day throwing for 358 yards and five touchdowns in the lopsided win. Wide receiver James Hossack caught 10 of those passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. In fact, Daley threw to seven different receivers in the game as the Pirates secondary was shredded.
Running backs Adam Hope and Elliot Waters added a touchdown apiece.
Defensively, Jake Harbon led the team with seven total tackles and a sack while Al Jarvis had five tackles and an interception return for a TD.
Pirates quarterback Neil Baptie could only muster 93 yards passing and was picked off three times, the first time on the third play of the game. The team had a total of 26 yards rushing in one of their worst offensive displays of many years. This is the same East Kilbride team that pushed the London Blitz in the British semifinals in 2015 only losing 19-7.
Although the Pirates will no doubt rebound from this setback, it did make many in American football circles in Great Britain take notice of Tamworth Phoenix.
Will this be the year they will truly challenge for the British crown? Or was this just a terrible day at the office for the Pirates?
Photo credit: Nick Mortimer