Match Report - Gryphons 26-24 MudDogs

From the very start of the season it was clear that this game between the Bangor MudDogs and Leeds Gryphons was going to be hugely important for both sides. Bangor came into the game the number 4 ranked team in the conference and number 1 in the division, and had dispatched both Edge Hill and Keele prior to this matchup without conceding a point.

A delayed kickoff led to a 6:00pm start under the lights at West Park and the Gryphons started strongly, in contrast to a sluggish beginning from the visiting side. An error on the opening kick led to a Leeds recovery and subsequent rushing touchdown only 3 plays later, courtesy of quarterback Harry Roberts. It didn’t take long for Roberts to score his second with his feet either and the Gryphons raced to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.

After this initial shock however, the MudDogs started to show why they were so highly regarded coming into this fixture, scoring a 60 yard rushing touchdown and following this up with two more scores before the half to go in with a 18-13 lead. The signs were ominous for the Gryphons, who were struggling to cope with a strong Bangor passing attack.

However, as so often happens in sport, a break can change the momentum of a game. Both sides started the second half well and for the majority of the 3rd quarter a stalemate ensued between two sides who clearly knew the significance the night’s result would have on their season as a whole. Watching the game there was a definite sense that the next score would be huge in deciding the outcome of this encounter.

Then, a break away run from RB Andy Hay put Leeds into the Bangor red zone, and QB Luke Turner made no mistake in finding second year tight end Paul Sissons when he found himself open in the end zone. A second converted PAT from Tom Best made the score 20-18 going into 4th quarter.

The Gryphons pulled together an brilliant 88 yard drive finished off with a rushing touchdown by Hay early in the 4th, and the score was 26-18 with 8 minutes left to play. Bangor were trying all they could to level the score, but found themselves up against an inspired safety in Sam Wood, who got himself not one but two interceptions in the next two Bangor drives, this in addition to a fumble recovery earlier in the game capped an incredible performance by the rookie.

Leeds could not hold Bangor forever though and a touchdown with 1 minute to go gave the MudDogs a chance for a two point conversion to take the game into overtime. The Gryphons defence held firm despite the overwhelming pressure of the situation however and the game finished 26-24. Taking the Gryphons to 2-0 to start the season and into a great position to potentially achieve further success later in the year.