By Charlie Neal
Last October, Durham Head Coach Jonathan Rooney brought together a group of students, many of whom had very little previous experience playing American football. The Saints side was formed mostly of rookies, with the addition of some British returners and American scholars.
And yet, they sit top of BUCS Premiership North and are undefeated. In one of their most recent fixtures, Durham travelled to Leeds and put in a remarkably dominant performance, triumphing 36-0 despite many rookies making their debuts.
The victory extended Durham’s league lead over second-place Stirling, who host Durham in what will be an exciting season finale in late February. Coach Rooney described the performance as “really solid work” stating that they had “played well in all phases and showed what we can do”, but he still believes his Saints side are “capable of even more”.
Wide receiver Eric Poindexter, who has already been a huge part of the Saints’ success this season, did something rarely witnessed in American football in the Carnegie match. He completed a trifecta, which involves scoring a touchdown in three different ways – a catch, a pass, and a run.
Poindexter firstly caught a Clayton Turner pass in the end zone to give the Saints the initial lead. He then stepped in at quarterback at half time in place of Turner, proceeded to throw two touchdowns and recorded a running touchdown – an outstanding achievement for the scholar.
Although the Saints dictated the game against Leeds, their unbeaten streak hasn’t been an easy ride. One week prior, they found themselves playing in snowy conditions against Derby and narrowly escaped defeat, edging out a 10-7 victory over the Braves.
Conceding just one touchdown in two games, the Saints’ defensive unit has been exceptional. Throughout their first five games, the Saints shut out their opponents twice and conceded more than two touchdowns on just one occasion.
The Saints’ offensive unit is powerful, but their defence has been just as impressive this year. Stopping the opposition from scoring allows Durham to remain a threat in each contest, and tallying touchdowns from interceptions and fumble recoveries has undoubtedly made winning a much easier task for them.
A solid defensive unit is key to winning Championships, but the Saints aren’t looking that far ahead just yet. “Being undefeated is a great feeling, and shows how hard everyone has worked so far, but we know we need to keep improving to ensure we are still on top at the end of the season”, Club President Joe Partington said.
The Saints took another step on their Championship journey on Sunday with an impressive 35-13 victory against Loughborough Students. The result leaves them six points clear at the top with two fixtures still to play.
Photograph: Photo Finish Sports Photography