Pennine Panthers at the National Finals
On 20th September 2014, in their first season, the Pennine Panthers went to National Finals day, held at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster. Here’s how the day panned out:
Pennine Panthers 13-25 Highland Wildcats
The Panthers got the ball first in the opening game but couldn’t make anything of it and the Wildcats quickly took a 6-0 lead. The Panthers struggled to move the ball on their second drive until Sarunas Nasiscionis (#83) carried the ball 20+ yards into Wildcats territory, although the second set of downs were couldn’t make it into the endzone and the Panthers came away empty handed again. The Wildcats continued their dominance with a long pass which was quickly followed by a touchdown and a successful extra point to make the score 13-0. The Panthers’ slow start continued when, on first down, the ball was picked off and taken back for another TD. The 2 point conversion failed and the Wildcats looked like taking a big lead into the half time break, 19-0. This woke the Panthers up and although they still struggled to move the ball, Victor Oderinde (#10) took the ball the length of the to score a much-needed touchdown. The Wildcats had the final drive of the half but a pass was intercepted by Tyler Broad (#13) to end the half at 19-6.
A determined Panthers came onto the field for the second half and were fired up to get back in the game, which happened almost immediately when Matty Napier (#29) almost had a pick six but was unfortunate to slip on the damp turf. The Panthers still managed to make the interception count with a catch from Daniel Lester (#37) and an incredible diving catch for the extra point by Tyler Broad (#13) which got the Panthers back in the game at 19-13. But the comeback was short-lived, the Wildcats added another TD on the next drive but Broad stopped them adding any extra points. The game petered out from there and the Panthers couldn’t add to the scoreboard and, despite a brave attempt at a comeback, they succumbed to a 25-13 reverse.
Pennine Panthers 27-2 Chorley Buccaneers
The Panthers second game was over on the astroturf against the Chorley Buccaneers. The Bucs had the ball first and moved it just into the Panthers half but on first down, Adam Leach (#91) with a huge tackle in the backfield, pushed them back into their own half. The Panthers’ first drive also ended scoreless but on the first play of the next Buccaneers drive the ball was fumbled in the endzone and Tyler Broad (#13) managed to recover it for the TD, with a successful PAT the Panthers had their first lead of the day, 7-0. A good drive from the Bucs took them close to tying the score straight away but a big effort from the Panthers’ D stopped them an inch out. Some good work from Brandyn Townson (#81) on the next drive was cancelled out by an interception but the Panthers had their own pick to make up for it and Matty Napier (#29) took it in for the score to make it 14-0 at the break.
The teams traded unsuccessful drives until the Panthers got their run game going and Lukas Venskus (#16) went on 3 good runs to get the Panthers to within the Bucs 5 yard line. The drive was complete when Tyler Broad (#13), once again, when he plucked a tipped pass out of the air with a fantastic reaction catch to make it 20-0 with the Panthers looking strong. The only blemish on the scoreboard for the Panthers came when a bad toss just outside their own endzone ended in a safety but the “comeback” was stopped emphatically when on the first play of the next Buccaneers drive was picked off and taken back for another touchdown by Matty Napier (#29) and the game ended 27-2 in favour of the Panthers.
Pennine Panthers 21-13 Marlow Wolves
The final game was back on the grass against the Marlow Wolves, the Panthers already knowing that the Wildcats had made the final and had no pressure against the number 1 seeded Wolves. An early touchdown and extra point from Tyler Broad (#13), who had a very successful day individually, gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead. That lead didn’t last long however, as the Wolves went straight up the other end with a long pass but opting for a 2 point conversion and failing meant that the Panthers still led by a point. A big pass into the endzone was almost turned into a fantastic touchdown but the WR couldn’t hang on but on the following Wolves drive, the Panthers D had them under pressure on their 1 yard line and Matty Napier (#29) forced the safety to make it a three point game, 9-6 at half time.
Another interception from Tyler Broad (#13) got the ball back for the Panthers and on the ensuing drive QB Daniel Lester (#37) was combining well with his teammates both passing and receiving to move the ball into Wolves territory, the drive being completed when the ball was passed to Center Nathan Robson (#78) who bulldozed his way into the endzone taking two defenders with him. Leading 15-6 after the two point conversion failed, the Panthers looked confident but a Wolves TD and successful PAT made the score 15-13 and when the next Panthers drive failed to make it to halfway, the ball was turned over at the two minute warning and the game was set for a tight finish. The Wolves managed to move the ball all the way to the Panthers’ 3 yard line and only needed a minute to do so, the Panthers D held strong and the Wolves were faced with a 4th down, 5 yards out to win the game. The Wolves QB looked for a man in the endzone but only managed to find Sarunas Nasiscionis (#83) who took the ball the length of the field to end the game, 21-13 to the Panthers.
A great day was had by all and the results meant that the Panthers were ranked as the fifth best team in the country.
Well done to all of the players, coaches and everyone else involved this year and we look forward to 2015 and to the future of the Yorkshire Rams, which looks bright indeed.
Watch a review of the Pennine Panthers’ inaugural 2014 season here at our new YouTube channel