The Bulls welcome their local rivals, the Sandwell Steelers, to Erin Go Bragh for the first time ever, looking to avenge their defeat in Week 2.
The season opener at Tipton Academy. Image courtesy of Garry Griffiths, ThreeFiveThree Photography.
Since the Bulls first game, Sandwell have been nearly flawless, slipping up only in a close defeat to the Doncaster Mustangs.
You’ll remember that the Bulls and the Steelers have only met once previously in their history, the Steelers coming out on top in a nervy, 18-14 win in Tipton. On that day, the Bulls struggled to stop the run, but since then, they’ve held their opponents to an average of 30 rushing yards per game.
The Bulls eked out their first win of 2016 in Week 8 of the BAFANL season, travelling to Bedford and pipping the Ouse Valley Eagles, leaving with a 13-12 victory. Veteran QB Rich Wilde put in a vintage performance, completing 73% of his passes, hooking up multiple times with four different receivers, while running back Mark Bonazebi ran for over 200 yards for the second time this season.
“It was nice to see the boys get the result I believe they have thoroughly deserved all season” said OC Gary Hodgen. “I felt offensively we dominated their defense across the field on both run and pass. The guys just left it all on the field that day.”
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Dom Taylor, in his first game as a captain, was a revelation. Not content with an early fumble recovery, he added two stunning interceptions and multiple tackles for loss, shutting down the Eagles’ offence in the middle of the park.
Taylor celebrates another big play against the Eagles. Image courtesy of Garry Griffiths, ThreeFiveThree Photography.
“It’s been a tricky few weeks on the defensive side of the ball with a few injuries stacking up” said DC Alan Steel. “But I am over the moon with the way we responded by beating Ouse Valley last Sunday.”
Also featuring in that game were two new faces in the secondary. Matty Hyland, a Newcastle-born rookie corner, saw his first start away to the Eagles.
“I had been waiting for an opportunity to show what I can do and that came against Nottingham Caesars where I played a half” the cornerback said. “I was nervous before the game as I’d never started before, but within the first play, I had secured my first tackle as a starter.”
He added “I loved every moment of starting and playing every snap. I’m looking to do the same against Sandwell.”
Next to him, at free safety, was Matt Teall, who previously played for the Bulls youth team before moving to Bristol to play at the Filton Academy.
After impressing on special teams, he got his first start against the Caesars, and was called upon again for the win at the Eagles.
“My first season has been a bit of a roller coaster so far” the safety said. “From a disappointing first half of the season to unexpectedly getting my first start against Nottingham to playing a massive part in the win against Ouse Valley.”
“The first start against Nottingham, I was a bag of nerves as I wasn’t expecting to get on much. Coach James Muller got injured in the warm ups and I had to step up. Football has a funny way of throwing you in at the deep end like that.”
Teall was crucial in the victory a fortnight ago. After putting 6 on the board, the Eagles went for 2 points. Had they converted, they would’ve snatched the victory, but Teall hit Eagles QB Zach Wodaege in the backfield, forcing an incompletion.
“I really enjoyed the game against Ouse Valley as it was the first time I was really challenged, a close game all the way through to the end” said Teall.
As we race closer to season end, Teall remains confident.
“So far my rookie season has more than exceeded expectations, great organisation to be a part of, great bunch of guys to train and play with. I think after the Ouse Valley game we have turned a corner and I’m really excited to see what we can achieve.”
The Bulls welcome the Sandwell Steelers to Erin Go Bragh on Sunday 19th June. Kick off is at 1:30pm.