Having traversed Hadrian's Wall earlier in the day, the Roughnecks took to the field at Druids Park with the conditions and field perfect for a spot of play-off football. This is what the whole season would come down to, one final game to crown the NFC 2 Champions.
Electing to receive the opening kick-off the offence would take to the field first and the game started as it would go on. The Romans defence would swarm the pocket all evening, restricting the running and passing game and forcing punts from the Roughnecks throughout the day. The Romans however would find a similar fate. Known for their deep air raid passing offence the Roughnecks secondary knew it was in for a long day, but early doors CB - and semi-final MVP - #42 Remi Theron would let it be known they were up to the challenge. Remi ripped a deep pass out of the clutches of a Romans receiver who was surely in for the go ahead score if not for the Frenchman's intervention. Both teams were making mistakes however, with penalties from both, two missed FG from the Roughnecks and turnovers from the Romans (1 Fumble forced and recovered by #22 Gamu Mukuredzi, and 1 Interception from FS #4 Stuart Don) leaving the score at 0 - 0 following the end of the first quarter.
It would be a Roughnecks penalty that would lead to the Romans taking the lead, as the Roughnecks blocked a FG attempt which was deemed to be cause by illegal contact with the long snapper. The Romans would get a new set of downs near the Roughnecks goalline and would capitalise to take a 6 - 0 lead - the quarterback rolling out to his right to find a receiver open in the back corner of the endzone. More turnovers and penalties would follow however and following a fumble recovery by the Roughnecks, kicker #4 Stuart Don would connect on a career long 49 yard attempt to half the deficit set up by a fumble he recovered whilst at FS, which was forced by #56 LB Matt McCall on a Romans run play.
The second half was to be no different in that the defences would dominate and mistakes would be made by both teams. Big plays from DL #69 Andrew Watts would send the Romans backwards time and again and the offence would keep grinding, with #16 Chris Breen hooking up deep down field with #6 Lewis Hughes and #18 Rhys Elmslie with #1 Sean Breen and #85 Rob Hayes helping in the run game and with passes from the slot. #35 Dave Obatolu would spot for #25 Diego Esquer carrying the ball as they ran behind Connor Gray, Keiran DeGabriele, Ally Howe, Jason Rhind and Andy Watts with Mark Wemmys and Josh Bahru making contributions as well. Having found Lewis Hughes down the Roughnecks sideline in the 4th quarter, QB Chris Breen would rush his side to the line of scrimmage hoping to catch the Romans on the back foot but an impressive defensive stand would see the FG unit come out to tie up the game at 6 apiece with only 11 minutes left in the game. A similar defensive stand from the Romans proceeded that one, however the Roughnecks opted to go for it on 4th down that time, coming up agonisingly short as they looked to take the lead. A missed field goal and another one blocked would see out the scoring opportunities for the rest of the game for the Roughnecks as we headed into overtime.
Using the NCAA Football Overtime rules each team would get the opportunity to possess the ball starting on the oppositions 25 yard line in a sudden death penalty shootout type finish to the game. Going on defence first the Roughnecks would look to shut down the Romans offence as they had done for large portions of the game. Defensive Linemen #44 Grant Travis, #69 Andy Watts and #90 Che Mueller had been providing pressure upfront all night, not allowing the Romans QB time to breathe in the pocket and find a passing rhythm. Linebackers Graeme Reith, Darren Henderson, Ollie Schaffmann, Daire O'Beirne and the McCall brothers Matt and Phil would help shut down the Romans running game whilst the secondary took the air out of the ball for the Romans. Corners Gamu Mukuredzi and Remi Theron keeping the Romans high-flying receiving core at bay with help at Safety from Darren Henderson and Stuart Don. Following a scoreless first attempt for both teams - the Roughnecks drive ending with a fumble - both teams would come back out looking for the endzone, this time the Roughnecks would go first and they would find their rhythm at the perfect time. Quarterback Chris Breen connected with both Rhys Elmslie and Rob Hayes down the right sideline with both doing well to remain in bounds before catching the ball. Diego Esquer would wriggle his way down field, finding holes in the Romans defence before Fullback #44 Grant Travis would take to the field on 2nd and goal from 4 yards out. It may have taken a couple of attempts and over 70 minutes of football, but the Roughnecks had their first lead of the game, 13 - 6 with the PAT following the score.
The Romans would start their second attempt brightly too getting a first down after two downs, running the ball once and passing short over the middle on second down. #90 Che Mueller would provide the pressure to force a dangerous cross body pass from the Romans QB on the following 1st down however which sparked a reaction from an overly zealous offensive lineman who would let Che know what he felt of the play. Drawing a disastrous 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty the Romans would be marched back making it 2nd and 25 for the Romans who needed to score to prolong the game. Great defensive plays in the secondary would come from Phil McCall - nearly finishing the game with a difficult interception - and Ollie Schaffmann who batted down the ball on another pass attempt would leave the Romans with 4th and 25. And who else but #69 would make the play to finish the game and the season, shedding his blocker, Andy Watts would sack the Romans quarterback sending the Roughnecks sideline into raptures!
11 games, 11 wins, and a Gatorade bath for the coaches HC/OC Ruari Collinson, DC Bryce Stevenson, and STC George Pirie. Having collected the medals all that would be left was the crowing of #69 Andy Watts as the NFC 2 Final MVP by presentation of an individual trophy and the handing over of the NFC 2 Silver Salver, held aloft by Head Coach Ruari Collinson.
On behalf of the club we'd like to thank the Northumberland Vikings and Vikings TV for hosting the final. It's a venue we've played at before and suited the occasion. Friends, families and fans are incredibly thankful for the live stream allowing them to be part of the action up in the Granite City or wherever they may have been. Thanks also to BAFA for organising the event, the medals, the trophy and the referees who have an incredibly difficult job but handled it really well!
Interim Head Coach/Offensive Co-ordinator, Ruari Collinson:
"[I am] Unbelievably proud of what the team have achieved this season. They thoroughly deserve to be NFC 2 champions after the work they have put in this season. It was a tough game, Chester proved exactly why they should be in Div 1 next year and are a great programme that made us work extremely hard for the victory. Our D played lights out once again in the playoffs, limiting oppositions offence to just 8 points in the entire offseason is an incredible achievement for that side of the ball and they kept us in the game for large chunks of the evening. The offence struggled at times during the game both down to great defence from the opposition and some poor execution but I can’t fault the heart of the unit. They came through when it was needed and came up with those big plays to give us that go ahead score in OT to leave the D to do what they do best and get after the QB and seal the bowl game.
Preparations have already begun for next season for life in div 1 and this is just the start for us, with this squad and group of coaches we have a lot to build on and look forward to the challenge of Div 1 football next year. On a final note I’d like to thank the Roughnecks' supporters who came down to cheer us on. The noise they made in the 4th quarter and OT was outstanding and we are ecstatic that they made the journey back to Aberdeen happy."
Defensive Co-ordinator, Bryce Stevenson:
"Firstly I'd like to say full credit to Coach Levi Edwards and his players at Chester for making it such a spectacle and wish them all the fortune in Division 1 next year.
The players deserve all the credit for the victory on Saturday night. To win in overtime against the Chester Romans took something special and the way in which they kept fighting throughout the whole game was fantastic. The defence were absolutely incredible they took the game plan and ran with it. All night they stayed disciplined and gave the Chester QB no pre-snap reads and then dropped into the different coverages that we game planned for. I'm so proud of the way the team played, showing real desire and determination - not once did they waiver."
Special Teams Co-ordinator, George Pirie:
"Saturday was a great achievement for all the players and everyone involved with the Roughnecks for the work they’ve put all year long rounding off a perfect season and winning the championship. The character shown by the guys on Saturday in the face of some adversity was that of a championship team and one that deserved to win. We came back from some early missed kicks to kick a career long FG and along with guys making big tackles on ST we ensured the D had the longest field possible to work with.
Credit to the Romans who gave us one hell of a game and we’re great opponents for us in the final and a game that will prepare us well for life in division 1 next year."
Bud Light MVP: #69 OL/DL Andy Watts; Andy played on offence, defence and special teams all day, and was a constant thorn in the side of the Romans offensive line, running back and quarter back. Andy made plays all day long, pushing the pocket, making tackles blocking on offence and making, amongst others, the Championship sealing sack. Well Done Sir, Dilly Dilly!
Offensive MVP: #18 WR Rhys Elmslie; Rhys continued his post season form with another big outing on Saturday. He got the offence going with an early deep catch, and when called upon late in the game to get the team into field goal range, and on the game winning drive Rhys duly delivered. With two catches on the final drive of the game and a clutch sideline grab to move the chains in overtime Rhys.
Defensive MVP: #4 FS Stuart Don; Stuart provided deep coverage to nullify the Romans air raid attack before having to be replaced early in the second half due to cramp, but made his mark on the game securing an interception and fumble recovery to get the ball back to the offence. And that's not to mention the two field goals to tie the game and the PAT in overtime.
Special Teams MVP: #82 Graeme Reith; Graeme was everywhere on ST, making life extremely difficult for the returner on the punt and kick off teams and was often first to the tackle to keep us on top of the field position battle. Graeme also delivered the long snaps for the field goals and as such had a hand in 7 of the 13 points scored on the day as well.
Rushing: #44 FB Grant Travis
Kicking: #4 K Stuart Don 2x FG, PAT (LS: Graeme Reith, Holder: Grant Travis)