Bath Get Stung by Lions
“Leaders Lions take the sting out of the Killer Bees”
Match Report By Laurence Matthews
Fresh off their 23-0 shutout victory of rivals the Hertfordshire Hurricanes, the Birmingham Lions faced off against the Bath Killer Bees in their second game of the Premiership South season. Driving rain had made pre-game preparations somewhat difficult for both teams, yet fortunately for the quality of the game, the weather had improved somewhat for the kick off.
Birmingham started the game in impressive fashion with QB Alex Wake throwing a short pass to receiver Dom Hayhurst, who escaped poor tackling in the Bath secondary to race away for a 60 yard TD. After 3 offensive plays and a successful conversion from Charlie Hardman, the Lions led 7-0. Bath were limited to just one first down on their opening drive, forcing them to punt the ball back to the Lions to mount another offensive drive. From there the first quarter somewhat stagnated, with neither side able to build any sort of offensive momentum. The real kick start to the game came at the start of the second quarter when WR Alex Salter was able to reel in a pass from QB Wake on fourth and short, with only a last ditch tackle preventing him from racing away for the game’s second score. Running back Xavier Ajuwon provided the finishing touches to the drive, firstly with a strong run to take the Lions to the Bath 3 yard line, and then catching a pass from Wake out in the flats and beating the Bath defense to the corner of the end zone.
From there the Lions really kicked into gear; an important sack on third down by DE Josh Vines forced Bath to once again punt from their own territory. With the first play of the drive, Ajuwon took the hand off and with a combination of strength to break weak tackles and elite speed, he raced away nearly 40 yards for his second TD of the day. Bath made only one first down on their next drive, once again giving the Lions offense an opportunity to take over on their own 45 yard line after an incompletion by the Killer Bees on fourth down. After a couple of short run attempts an an incompletion, Ajuwon was once again able to break away, this time toe-tapping along the sideline before cutting back inside to cross the goal line for a 55 yard rush.
Birmingham continued to apply pressure, with an interception by CB Sam Jeater on their first play of the next Killer Bees drive, giving the Lions one last chance to score before half time. Two important receptions by WR Tunde Adelekan drove the Lions deep into Killer Bees territory, yet the Lions were unable to gain their fifth TD of the half after a touch chance on third down just escaped the grasp of Charlie Hardman. Hardman did however step up to kick the field goal, leaving the Lions 31-0 in the lead at half time.
Birmingham’s ever impressive defensive front seven started the second half just as they had finished the first, dominating the Bath offensive line. 3 successive sacks again forced the Killer Bees offense to go three and out as they struggled for any momentum. Whilst the first drive was halted by a holding penalty, the Lions second drive probed more fruitful with RB Darius Price taking a pitch on 3rd down 60 yards for his first TD of the day.
With a lead established, the Lions were able to start rotating players on offense and defense, providing valuable experience for backups. Positively also, there was very little drop off from these players coming in with the Lions once again turning the ball over on fourth down. A poor punt by Bath left the Lions to take over on the half way line, to which they took full advantage. Short gains in the Lions run game were complemented 2 significant plays by receiver Ollie Ashton; one a catch and run for 16 yards and the other a 25 yard completion for a touchdown. Not only was this Ashton’s first receiving TD of the year, it also marked a first passing TD for Lions backup QB Sammy-Lee Baker.
Bath were able however to finally get on the scoreboard with a late touchdown as one of their receivers ran the length of the field on a screen play. As disappointing as it was for the Lions to their first points of the season, their defensive dominance on the game was never in question.
The still undefeated Lions will now look to prepare for the visit of the Brighton Tsunami who will be looking to bounce back after suffering opening defeats to both Bath and Imperial College London. The Lions on the other hand will be looking to assert their dominance on the Premier South and maintain their great start to the season.