10 Dec 2019
Coming off one of the best-attended and best organised pre-seasons in the history of the Barracuda, Bristol went into their first BUCS fixture of the season with optimism. Their opponents, the Plymouth Blitz, were coming off relegation from Division 1 so were equally driven to prove their quality in the 2A South West.
After forcing a three and out on Plymouth’s first drive of the game, Bristol’s first offensive drive saw powerful runs from Nathan Obayori, Hugh Parker and rookie Abbood Shehadeh. The 64 yard series was then capped off with a 9 yard touchdown pass from third year quarterback Leo Cordery Smith to club president Rory Macnair. The Barracuda made a statement in their first outing under the reins of second year head coach Simon Preston.
As the Cuda defense took over up 08-00, it was their time to shine. After a few plays, Barracuda veteran Oliver Mcdowell burst across the line of scrimmage and forced a fumble on a held-up Blitz player. The ball was then scooped up by second year linebacker Dom Oldroyd, keen to prove himself after his first year of football.
The Bristol offence once again took over. This time however, the drive would not end quite as positively. Feeling the pressure from the Plymouth pass rush, Cordery Smith under-threw his target and was intercepted by the Blitz safety, who returned the ball 70 yards for the touchdown.
The ensuing drive saw the Cuda offence stall and punt back to the Blitz who would produce a steady drive that Bristol’s defence would hold to a field goal.
In their final drive of the half, Bristol progressed up the field with strong rushes from Parker and Shehadeh but a “rookie” error would hold them from putting another score on the board. After a great catch and run into the red zone, rookie receiver Jacob Adams fumbled the ball and the whistle blew for halftime.
HT: Cuda 08 - Blitz 09
To begin the second half, the Barracuda put together an impressive offensive drive on the ground with the offensive line carving out holes for Hugh Parker and Nathan Obayori. The drive culminated in a powerful 5 yard rushing touchdown from Obayori, capped by a 2 point conversion from Cordery Smith to Jacob Adams.
On the resulting kick-off, Oli McDowell forced another fumble and gave the Cuda the ball back in great field position. Rookie running back Tom Lara then got a taste for university football, swapping out with Parker and pushing the Cuda back into the red zone. With the ball all the way to the 1 yard line, quarterback Cordery Smith took it himself across the goal-line and in for the score. Hugh Parker would top off the score with a 2 point conversion along the ground.
Plymouth took the ball back but were again faced by a determined Bristol defence. Tackles from Luke Barnett and Joe Dee were followed by an important pass breakup by Matt Hartnoll and Alex Hull, leading to another Plymouth punt.
Bristol took over on their own 40 and Nathan Obayori showed that same power that he carried in his rookie year. After a 9 yard gain on the first play of the drive, Obayori burst through the line of scrimmage again, going 51 yard to the house. The Cuda offensive line took total control of the trenches and then carved the way for Lara to add the 2 point conversion.
Everything had come together for the Barracuda and it was showing. As the defence took the field, they were keen to produce just as much excitement as the offence. After just one Blitz play, Matt Hartnoll again broke up a deep pass which was then intercepted by, you guessed it, the turnover machine, Oliver McDowell.
The Cuda offence would not be able to maintain its impetus however, with a tipped pass from Cordery Smith falling into a Plymouth defenders hands late in the game. Plymouth’s attack was equally limp at this point, and after a quick 3 and out, Bristol again had the ball. With 2nd string and first year quarterback Akash Kennedy-Ganesh in the game, running back Hugh Parker put his mark on the game with a 46 yard rush contributing to a quick Cuda drive. Parker then ran the ball in for a 2 yard score, putting the Barracuda up 38-09.
With the game essentially over, it would end in typical Britball Week 1 fashion with a high snap leading to Cuda safety. Week 1 ended in a confident victory, but with rookies and special teams conscious of the work ahead of them.
FT: Cuda 38 - Blitz 11
Photos Courtesy of Andy Watts