Expecting a much tougher task this week than last, we welcomed the fourth seeded Birmingham Bulls to The Rig for our NFC 2 Semifinal clash. Eager to hit the ground running, and having won the toss, we would receive the ball from the opening kick-off and start on offence.
The Bulls' defence however proved to be stern opposition, battling well against the Roughnecks offence, stopping them on the first drive of the day from finding the endzone, but allowing the Roughnecks to get on the scoreboard through a 35 yard field goal dispatched #4 Stuart Don making it 3 - 0. Similarly the Roughnecks defence would stand up to the Bulls, smothering the run game however a punt would be the result of the Bulls' opening drive as the defence got off the field quickly. An exceptional pass defence from CB #42 Remi Theron was the standout play early in the game, as he batted down a deep pass with perfect timing to bring the Bulls' punt team back onto the field in the first quarter. Following the change of ends at the end of the quarter however it would be more of the same, with both defences playing well, and giving up very little both on the ground and through the air. However the Roughnecks would get back on the front foot, as last week's hat-trick scorer Lewis Hughes would take a short screen pass from QB #16 Chris Breen, and turn it into a big gain and excellent field position - as our #6 making it to the Bull's 10 yard line, weaving in and out of defenders and blockers. Tight End #85 Rob Hayes would complete the drive coming down with the ball in the endzone - Roughnecks in the ascendency - making it 10 - 0.
Disaster however as the Bulls' #89 would return the ensuing kick-off to the house, to immediately cut the deficit back to 4 with the PAT attempt coming up short of off the hand of a Roughnecks' defender.
Into the 3rd quarter it would go, and with each drive the game got more and more tense as the clock wound down with the game so evenly poised. Again the Bulls' #89 however would find the endzone, making a great play to intercept a ball intended for Rob Hayes, before again running it back the distance. A flag on the attempted PAT would give the Bulls' a second chance, and deciding to go for two, their QB found their WR #10 in the back of the endzone to make it 14 - 10 Bulls and put the Roughnecks in unfamiliar territory, trailing for the first time this season. Both defences continued to make life very difficult for the opposition, with the Bulls getting little done before punting each time, and the Roughnecks suffering a similar fate. The tide would turn in the 4th quarter however as a deep pass towards Rhys Elmslie would result in a defensive PI call and move the Roughnecks downfield. Eager to keep the ball moving a quick drive again saw Lewis Hughes come close to getting in the endzone, this time being tackled down at the 1 yard line, allowing RB #35 David Obatolu to do what he does best: Power it in. Lowering his pads, Dave dived into the endzone to take back the lead, 16 - 14 as the PAT would be blocked and come up short. Now with the Bulls desperate to make a play on offence it was in the hands of the defence with 10 minutes to go and did they ever deliver. Forcing both 3 & 4 and outs on all remaining possessions, getting the ball back to the offence and allowing them to run out the rest of the clock. Final score; Roughnecks 16, Bulls 14.
Thanks to the Bulls for making the trip north to Aberdeen for what was an enthralling and well fought game. Both teams put everything they had into the game, and we wish them all the best for their future. For us now however it's time to prepare for the NFC 2 Final where we'll face the #2 Chester Romans who over came the #3 Staffordshire Surge 37 - 14 in their semifinal. The Final is set to take place at Druid's Park in Newcastle on Saturday the 1st of September.
We would like to also thank our sideline yesterday, who turned out in great numbers to cheer on the guys, helping us on defence by drawing false start penalties, and cheering on the offence on every completion, run and score!
Defensive Co-ordinator Bryce Stevenson:
"What a fantastic achievement by the players of the Aberdeen Roughnecks yesterday to secure promotion to Division 1 and to the Division 2 final. From a defensive standpoint we were fantastic for 60 minutes not conceding and even allowing only a handful of first downs all game. We worked incredibly hard in the week trying to manipulate certain plays and create an opportunity where we knew we could seize the advantage. Full credit to the Birmingham Bulls organisation who played the whole game with tenacity and I'm sure they will go at least one step further next year. Now onto the final where we play what will prove to be undoubtedly the biggest test for the defence. But we wouldn't want it any other way and we are already preparing to make sure I give the players the best opportunity of succeeding."
Bud Light MVP: CB #42 Remi Theron - Remi played well all day, stifling the receiver on his side of the field all day long. He make an exquisite play on the ball early in the game, and kept up that level of performance throughout. Well Done Remi, Dilly Dilly
Offensive MVP: TE #85 Rob Hayes - Rob got our first touchdown of the day and worked tirelessly to help out in the running game, and made a number of other important catches, moving the offence down the field, and flipping field position.
Defensive MVPs: DE #56 Matt McCall/CB #22 Gamu Mukuredzi - Coming into the game we had reviewed the film and knew that getting to the Bulls' QB would prove very hard, but that wouldn't stop Matt McCall - with a sack in the 2nd quarter. Matt would continuously blow up runs (and maybe most impressively a screen pass) in the back field and helped shut down the Bulls' offence with a stellar showing. Gamu, similarly to Remi shut down the receiver on his side of the field, allowing only one catch against him towards the end of the second quarter, but Gamu's efforts in the run game also stood out, coming infield to make numerous important tackles and stop drives before they could get going.
Throwing: QB #16 Chris Breen caught by: TE #85 Rob Hayes
Rushing: RB #35 David Obatolu x1
Kicking: K #4 Stuart Don FG x1, PAT x1 (LS: #82 Graeme Reith, Holder: #44 Grant Travis)