The long awaited return to the gridiron proved a bittersweet experience for the Ipswich Cardinals on Sunday. A resounding 24-3 victory over the Bedfordshire based Ouse Valley Eagles was countered with a crippling injury list. Both starting running backs suffered serious injuries as the exciting Jay Brown ruptured a patella tendon, while the more robust Henri Clements suffered two broken ribs. While Clements is hopeful for a return this campaign, Brown will have surgery and his season is over. Head Coach Ian Girling and Defensive Co-ordinator Kyle Clark have been working hard over the long Covid forced break, implementing a new regime that makes every player more accountable, improving the work ethic at practice and re-enforcing fundamentals.
The players responded superbly on Sunday, playing with a togetherness and determination that gave the visitors little hope of victory. In the early going, the game resembled a nervy Pre-season affair, with errors and penalties from both outfits. The hosts came up short after promising drives and it was the Eagles that scored first. A short field goal gave them a 0-3 lead, but as the Cardinal defense got into their stride, the home team visibly lifted. Brown caught a pass from quarterback Matt Agate and took it 40 yards for a touchdown, Brad Ling kicked the extra point and from that point onwards, it was all Ipswich.
Mark Pennock intercepted a pass that resulted in a Ling field goal and the half ended at 10-3. In the third quarter a long drive looked promising until Brown was injured attempting to dive into the endzone, but shortly after another interception, this time by Ryan Caley, and the Cardinals went further ahead when Mitchell Melanaphy sauntered into the endzone untouched. Ling converted again to increase the lead to 17-3.
The Eagles continued fighting and jumped on an Ipswich mistake returning a punt. Their hopes of a score were quickly dashed as a vicious hit on the quarterback resulted in a fumble, young Craig Wiltshire recovering the lost ball. The offense took over, without Brown or Clements now, and mounted a superb drive that consumed time and steadily marched up the field. Marshalled by Agate, who enjoyed his best performance as a quarterback, the victory was sealed when Jonathan Balshaw took a short pass into the endzone, taking Agate over 250 yards passing on the day. Ling converted for a final score of 24-3 and the clock expired on a comfortable scoreline, if not a comfortable afternoon for those injured combatants.
Written by Ian Girling
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