The Saints offence suffered a rare three and out on their opening drive of the play-offs, so Zach “Socksy” Austin had to kick it away and his kick matched Hamish Cowley’s coverage that arrived just the receiver caught it for a nil return. The Broncos converted a third and seven with a QB option run stopped by Travis Offord. On the next play, an innocuous incompletion saw Safety Travis Offord crumple to the ground with a game ending knee injury. A sack by LB Primoz Pancic forced the Broncos back and a short punt gave the Saints the ball just inside their own half.
As the Saints marched into Broncos’ territory, they fumbled the ball away, but the linebackers swarmed all over the Bronco’s run game forcing a punt. Starting from their twenty-five a less than perfect handover resulted in Doug Stewart fumbling as he hit the line of scrimmage. The D were gradually forced back and faced first and goal from the two early in the second quarter. But they stood firm and turned the ball over on downs at their own five. Stewart moved the ball away from the goal-line, but Sottilare fumbled on a read-option and the Broncos were in red zone again. A sack by AJ Wright followed by a tackle for a loss by Prescott Haywood forced the Broncos into third and long where Chris Clarkson picked off the pass and galloped to near midfield.
Facing a fourth and two from their own forty-nine, Sottilare hit Henry for thirteen. Going empty on the next play, Sottilare got the match-up he wanted and hit Stewart down the sideline for the go-ahead score. The two point attempt attempted failed (6-0).
The Defence forced a three and out but the punt forced the Saints to start from their own twenty. A bullocking catch and run by Clarkson on second and ten gave the Saints a new set of downs and a Brave catch over the middle by Cowley put the Saints in Broncos territory as time winded down in the half. Four successive incompletions turned the ball over, a Broncos’ first down was followed by a pick by Cam McClelland giving Sottilare another shot at a late score from his own twenty-six. Completions to Gareth Weinbrecht and Henry got the ball to midfield, a 40-yard completion to Daniel Strickland gave the Saints a shot from the Red Zone, but the pass hit the ground as time expired.
An impressive drive by the Broncos to open the third quarter moved them to the Saints 23-yard line where Pancic batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage to force a third down. The Broncos opened a gap for their running back but Safety Cam Groenhiede made the tackle jarring the ball loose and Josh “J2” Marsden recovered it at the nine. A crucial big hit by Big Bird.
A loss of four on the first play didn’t help, but a gain by Stewart put the Saints in third and manageable, Weinbrecht completed the grab and a dead-ball penalty on the Broncos moved the chains. Successive runs by Cowley and then Stewart got the ball to midfield, Facing fourth and five, Weinbrecht again made the crucial grab as Sottilare rolled away from pressure. A reverse to Henry for a big gain was called back for an illegal block by QB Sottilare which was offset by a Broncos penalty. Successive runs by Stewart moved the chains and then Sottilare aired it out to Jesse Hallett who was tackled at the four. Both Stewart and Sottilare tried to run it in as the third quarter ended. So to open the fourth, Sottilare rifled it to Hallett for the score and they repeated the trick on the 2pt attempt (14-0).
Despite a return to midfield, the Broncos had to punt and pinned the Saints back. A 25-yard completion to Strickland on third and eleven helped and then runs by Stewart pushed to the Saints to the Broncos’ 32. Another strike to Hallett and the Saints were knocking on the door again. This time, Strickland was open in the corner of the end-zone and the Saints lead 20-0 after failing with the two point conversion.
The Broncos went to the air and completed a couple of strikes. Then their option game finally got them a score but the two point attempt failed (20-6). The on-side kick was pooched into the air and the Saints were aggrieved that Jake Johnson was impeded as he attempted the catch but the refs ruled that the Broncos had recovered. On the next play Strickland picked off the pass. Stewart and the o-line bulldozed their way to a first down so the Saints could kneel it out and advance to the WestBowl.
Offensive MVP – Jono Cridland
Any of the O-line would have been deserving, but Jono has no pressures from his side and kept and opening chinks of light in the D-line.
Defensive MVP – Chris Clarkson
An all-action performance with six tackles and an interception.
Most Saintly Performance – Jesse Hallett – Next man up
Stepping in for the injured 1000-yd receiver Hegney (even gets a mention when he’s not playing); Jesse came up with the Big Plays as required.
In the other semi, the Rockingham Vipers ran away with the second half to defeat the Claremont Jets, 36-14.