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Durham and Nottingham crowned University Premiership and division one champions

After problems with the weather affecting the regular season and playoff schedules, BUCS managed to get their Premiership and division one finals played Sunday at Sixways Stadium, Worcester.

In division one, the University of Nottingham went 8-0 in the regular season and kept their momentum going into the final where they shut out the University of West England Bullets 43-0.

Last season, Nottingham were edged out 28-27 in overtime by Leeds Beckett Carnegie in the semi-final and then spent twelve months contemplating what could have been. A year later they have followed in the footsteps of Leeds by becoming National champions and achieving promotion to the Premiership.

In the final, Nottingham began to control the game on their first possession although they missed a field goal attempt. On their second series, Nottingham began from their own 40 using a ground game spearheaded by quarterback Pat Daley. Nottingham consistently moved the chains before Derek Knott’s 8-yard sweep left for the touchdown put his team in front.

Nottingham’s confidence in their offense grew and they succeeded twice on fourth downs on their first drive in the second quarter. The series finished with Daley’s first completion of the day when Knott pulled in a touchdown pass to increase Nottingham’s lead to 15-0 with Knott running in to add a two point-after.

Nottingham continued to use their air attack, reverting to a ground game when goal to go from the one with Pierce Ripanti bursting through the middle to further increase Nottingham’s lead.

With the Bullet’s offense being held by Nottingham’s dominant defense, Nottingham extended their advantage at the close of the first half. Daley, on the run to avoid a Bullets defensive rush, launched a perfect pass to Knott for a 44-yard touchdown completion to make it 29-0.

In the third quarter, Tunde Pratt replaced Daley for a few snaps and found his name on the score sheet when he ran left untouched into the end zone for Nottingham’s fifth touchdown that initiated the running clock rule.

With Davey back on the field at the start of the final period, his pinpoint pass of 18 yards found a leaping Laquan Lambert in the back of the end zone to complete the scoring for a Nottingham 43-0 victory.

The Bullets will be disappointed with their performance, but they were up against a Nottingham team determined to redeem themselves from last year’s setback.

The big surprise in the Premiership playoffs had been the quarter final win of the (3-5) Derby Braves over the (7-1) Birmingham Lions. The Braves then reached the finals after a 20-12 triumph over the Stirling Clansmen.

The Braves faced last year’s runners up the Durham Saints, who had a perfect 8-0 regular season that included two victories over the Braves.

The final began slowly for both teams with Derby failing to take the lead with a 42-yard field goal that fell short. The Saints failed to take full advantage of a first down with goal to go on the 4-yard line at the end of the second quarter, but drew first blood with a 29-yard field goal.

Durham’s first drive of the second half gained four first downs and 80 yards finishing with a pass over the defense to #16 in the back of the end zone. The Saints added a second touchdown halfway through the final period as the Derby defense began to fade under the pressure. Samuel Jones ran in the score to put his team 17-0 ahead.

Derby attempted a spirited comeback late when they put six points on the board, but it wasn’t to be their day and the Durham Saints became the 2018 Premiership champions with a 17-6 victory.

In the division two north semi-final, the battle between the two unbeaten heavy weights the Manchester Titans and the Newcastle Raiders proved a war of attrition with the Raiders edging an 8-6 victory.

The Raiders will play the Coventry Jets in the Conference Cup Final with the date to be announced while the Brighton Panthers will host the Southampton Stags in the south on April 21st.

Nottingham photo courtesy of Andy Neale – WhizzyFingers.

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