Lions Victorious Again @ Killer Bees
After a comfortable victory over the Brighton Tsunami, the Lions travelled to Bath looking to extend their unbeaten record in the Premier South. The Killer Bees however were out for revenge following a heavy defeat in November in the reverse fixture. Birmingham won the toss and chose to defer, therefore kicking the ball off to the team in yellow and blue.
Good opening pressure by the Lions defense kept up their season long effort of forcing opening three and outs, leading Bath to punt the ball away. An unfortunate spill by returner Charlie Hardman led to a Bath recovery and a second chance for the Killer Bees. A fumbled snap led Bath to give away 11 yards on the first play after gaining the ball back and their offence was never able to truly recover. Another punt led to Lions ball and a chance for the high powered Birmingham offence to stamp their mark on the game. The first explosive play of the game shortly followed: after an incompletion and a short run by Xavier Ajuwon, QB Alex Wake was able to find Alex Salter on a deep ball for a gain of 47 yards. Had Salter been able to keep his feet while stretching for the ball he would have almost certainly been in for the game’s opening touchdown. As it was, the Lions offence stuttered just outside the Bath redzone, leaving kicker Hardman to attempt a 35 yard field goal. Bath managed to block the kick, and took over possession on their own 25.
Bath’s decision to pass the ball more on offence only served to help the Lions; superb pressure up front from DE Josh Vines led to an important sack on 2nd down and tight coverage in the secondary left Bath once again punting the ball without gaining a third down. After Hardman fielded a fair catch, it was Ajuwon’s turn to turn in an explosive effort on offence. After an initial run of 15 yards to gain a first down on a tricky third and long, he scored his first TD of the day with a 40 yard run between the tackles. The extra point kick from Hardman was good and the Lions led 7-0. Bath still persisted with the pass game in the first quarter, leading Vines to get his 2nd and 3rd sacks of the game as Bath struggled to get anything going.
The cold, blustery conditions did not seem to suit Birmingham either who also uncharacteristically struggled to move the ball early on. A grinding offensive effort led to a field goal opportunity which was uncharacteristically missed by Hardman. And after a short punt by Will Hussey later on in the quarter gave Bath good field position, the hosts were able to get their first points on the board with a field goal. The score stayed this way until the half, the hosts undoubtedly buoyed by their defensive efforts and the points they had managed to score on the number one defense in university football.
The Lions resumed the third quarter much more fluid on offence, the highlight being a 25 yard catch and run by Alex Salter up the sideline. Slowly but surely the Lions drove towards the Bath end zone but only a dubious spot on a catch by Tim Curry stopping them moving the chains on 4th down. However, all was not lost; great defensive penetration by the Lions front seven left to a safety on the very next play, extending the Lions lead. The third quarter ended in a stalemate from there on between the two teams, with neither team able to advance the ball on the other.
The Lions showed their true class in the fourth quarter however; after driving down into Bath territory it was the turn of Mason Baptiste to get on the board for the second Lions TD of the game. After turning the corner on a double move, Baptiste found himself wide open and was accurately found by Wake for his first passing TD of the game. The PAT by Hardman was good, moving the score to 16-3. After a fumble recovery by the ever impressive Lions defense, Birmingham took over possession again in Bath territory and it was up to Curry to record his first TD of the season with a superb diving effort in the end zone. The extra point was no good but by this point the Lions had the game wrapped up, leaving it to the defense to once again shut Bath down to usher in the final whistle.
A testing game for the Lions this proved to be, but the resolve of the team showed itself in the end, and with a bye week to prepare for the game against the Imperial Immortals, Birmingham will look to record a more typical performance back on home turf. Final Score Birmingham Lions 22 – 3 Bath Killer Bees.
Text by Laurence Matthews