UEA Pirates American Football team got off to the best possible start in BUCS South East 1A as they beat Queen Mary Vipers 39-15 in their first match of the season.
Corneilius Walters was the star for the Pirates, crossing three times against the newly-promoted opposition.
There was a healthy Sunday lunchtime crowd lining the Colney Lane touchline for the fixture, including students and locals. UEA Angels Cheer club continued their traditional association with the Pirates by turning out in numbers to show their support.
And it was the home side that drew first blood with an unconverted touchdown for 6-0. UEA were on top in the opening stages, gaining ground after the restart with some well-organised downs before the game opened up.
Cornerback Michael Johnson picked up where he left off from a successful rookie season in 2017-18, getting this campaign off to a good start in the thick of the first-half action for the Pirates. He made a flying, touchdown-saving tackle after a long throw forward for the Vipers was perfectly received.
However, it wasn’t long before Queen Mary took the lead with a converted touchdown for 6-7, the score at the end of the first quarter.
As the second quarter started, UEA were soon back in the lead 12-7 after a team-splitting run. The Pirates’ advantage was then extended with Walters’ first touchdown after he tore down the left to make the score 18-7, which is where it stayed as the resulting attempt was blocked.
UEA then went over again as they began to gain some daylight ahead of the Vipers. This time, the kick was converted for an extra point, leaving the Pirates 25-7 up.
However, they were pegged back by Queen Mary who gave UEA a sharp reminder that the game was anything but tied up with a touchdown that was taken into the end zone again for two extra points, pulling the deficit back to 25-15 by half-time.
However, that would be the Vipers’ final score of the match, with the second half dominated by UEA. Running back Walters crossed for 31-15, bursting down the left to secure the touchdown, but the resulting UEA attempt at notching two more points was thwarted.
It was Walters who then added another with a run from the centre out to the right and into the end zone again to bring the score up to 39-15 by the end of the third quarter.
And that’s how the game would finish, with no more score in a final quarter of fewer chances, although Pirates running back Sam Speak was instrumental in some rapid territorial gains for UEA midway through.
The final quarter did spark into life after UEA got close to the Queen Mary end zone from that offense. A crucial interception from the visitors was carried all the way forward by the Vipers’ running back who twisted and turned, expertly dodging past several Pirates. However, the home side won a real reprieve when he fell on UEA’s 40 yard line when almost clean through, so failed to secure what would have been a spectacular consolation touchdown.
Afterwards, club President Connor Kennedy reflected: ‘Queen Mary have just been promoted to our division. They put up a good fight but our boys put in a shift and we came out with the result we wanted.
‘Everyone’s been training hard in pre-season, and it’s paid off in the first game so we’re happy.
‘We’ve got a larger membership this year than we did last year, with a lot of good rookies.
‘We’ve got great potential this year.’
Special team captain Daniel Williams added: ‘we had a ridiculous amount of injuries throughout, and people just stepped in where they were needed, people knew what they were doing. We got the win and we’re excited for the rest of the season.
‘We’re really pushing people to come down and watch this year. There was a big crowd at our game today which we are so thankful for and appreciative of, and they get behind us, so that’s one of the things we’re hoping for this season as well as staying undefeated and winning the play-offs, which I really think this team can do.’
Last week, the Pirates headed to Imperial College London, maintaining their winning start 48-0. There was no competitive action this week as UEA prepare for a trip to Kent on Sunday, with their next home match in two weeks against Canterbury Christ Church.
Last season, UEA placed second in the South East 1A league with six wins and two defeats in the regular season, both to champions Kent. The aim for this term is to go one better and match Kent’s 8-0 record from last year, but they’ll need a win on Sunday to do that.