By Charlie Neal
The Saints welcomed arch-rivals Stirling to Maiden Castle on Sunday 26th November for the first time since the teams met in the National Championship eight months prior. Both teams were undefeated in the BUCS Premiership North, but the Saints drew first blood in the season series, defeating the Clansmen by a score of 34-13.
“We wanted to win. We went into the game feeling confident in ourselves, and we executed our game plan,” Saints linebacker Euan Cormack said.
Coming off a two-week break after having their game against the Derby Braves postponed due to injury, and enjoying a scheduled by-week the following Sunday, it took longer than usual for the Saints to get into the game.
Stirling capitalised on this, scoring on a 15-yard reception in the endzone. The Clansmen missed the extra point, and the score remained 6-0. The Stirling touchdown awakened the Saints, who responded promptly with a touchdown of their own on the preceding offensive drive.
Following some exceptional carrying by veteran running back Devan Anderson, who finished the game with over 30 possessions, Eric Poindexter recorded his first touchdown of the game. The skilled receiver caught the 20-yard pass from quarterback Clayton Turner, which was then converted by Jacob Shotton, pushing the Saints ahead of their Scottish rivals 7-6.
Led by proven quarterback Turner, the Saints possess perhaps the strongest passing system in the BUCS Premiership North. However, they demonstrated they have one of the best running schemes in the league, too.
Offensive guards Stefan Arridge and Yung-Lin Wang split the Stirling defense with some first-class blocking, allowing running back Anderson to waltz up the middle into the Clansmen endzone for the 10-yard touchdown. The score further extended the Saints lead to 14-6.
The elite partnership of Turner and Poindexter continued to flourish, with the duo recording their second touchdown of the game. Turner threw the ball just over the Stirling cornerback’s fingertips and into the hands of Poindexter, who made an exceptional one-handed catch in the endzone, extending the home side’s lead to 21-6 following the conversion by Shotton.
The Stirling offence, boasting a different quarterback to the one seen in previous years, took the field, looking to reduce the 15-point deficit. Durham’ stellar defensive unit, however, forced a fumble, which was then returned 40 yards by Club President Joe Partington for yet another Saints touchdown. The kick was converted, bringing the score to 28-6 just before the half-time whistle.
The Saints seem to be having no trouble scoring on both sides of the ball, with the defence recording two touchdowns in as many games. The defensive corps forces fumbles and causes turnovers whenever it can, enabling the offence to enjoy ample time on the field.
Cormack, who forced a fumble himself in the match, explained, “We aim to bring a physical edge to our game, in terms of finishing our tackles, remaining focussed on the ball, and being more prepared to strip the ball from the carrier.”
With a comfortable lead heading into the final half, the Saints seemed to take their foot off the pedal a little. The Clansmen executed a well-timed jet sweep, allowing the visiting running back up the middle for a 75-yard touchdown. Stirling converted the extra point, bringing the score to 28-13 in favour of the Saints.
It didn’t take long, however, for the Saints to respond. They secured the well-earned victory over the former national champions in the form of a carry, courtesy of promising running back Luke Dugdale, who recorded his first points as a Saint, bringing the final score to 34-13.
Photograph: Camilla Alexander