Cardinals get their news season off to a winning start

Tough action from Cardinals win at Spartans. Photo: RACHEL GOODE.

Tough action from Cardinals win at Spartans. Photo: RACHEL GOODE. - Credit: Archant

Essex Spartans 14 Ipswich Cardinals 15

A young Cardinals team travelled down the A12 on Sunday as the 2018 season kicked off with a bang against the Essex Spartans.

Pre-season has been fruitful for Ipswich with several key additions on both offence and defence, however, a familiar face would be missing, that of Chris Butcher, who we sadly lost last year.

Led by quarter-back Matt Agate and the rushing combo of Johnny Rodgers and Henri Clements, the Cardinals got off to the perfect start as Rodgers sprinted through the middle of the Spartans defence on the second play of the game for a 60 yard score. The extra point was blocked.

A fumbled hand-off on the ensuing drive by the Spartans gave the Cardinals excellent field position, however, the ever strong Essex defence stood firm to force a field goal attempt. The kick flew narrowly wide of the uprights and the score remained 6-0 to Ipswich.


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The Essex offence clicked into gear in the second quarter as they methodically drove down the field with a mixture of short power runs up the middle and some speed running to the outside, which was capped off by a one-yard quarter-back sneak. The two-point attempt was good as the Essex Spartans took the lead, 8-6.

An excellent punt set the Spartans deep in their own territory as the half-time interval approached, but, looking to add to their lead the Essex QB was sacked twice, the second of which, by Zian Mussington, was in his own Endzone. The officials duly put their palms together to signify the Safety and add two points to the Cardinal’s total. Eight-a-piece at the half.

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Excellent young linebacker trio of Tom Markham, Shane Howlett and Haydon Clark, alongside veteran Mel Wilkes continued to stifle the Essex offence in the third and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the tie was broken.

The Spartan QB evaded a number of would be tacklers to find one of his receivers deep in the Endzone for the lead as the clock ticked into the final five minutes. This time the two-point attempt was halted short of the goal-line to leave the score 14-8 in favour of the home side.

The Ipswich offence, knowing only a touchdown would suffice, would take the field in the dying embers of the game.

Strong running from Henri Clements set up the Cardinals inside the opposition redzone, when on fourth and 10 Matt Agate threw a pass towards Fab Ortiz Barrs. The talented all rounder plucked the ball out of the air to tie the game with only two minutes remaining. Brad Ling confidently struck the game-winning extra point to send the sideline into raptures.

The defence comfortably saw out the remaining moments of the game including an interception by that man Ortiz Barrs.

Head Coach Sandy Francis said: “It was great to start the season with a hard-fought and emotional win against the Spartans. Defensively we were solid but gave up scores through our own errors. We need to make teams work harder to get anything from us.

“On Offense QB Matt Agate led the team with poise, and the running combination of Henri Clements and Johnny Rogers ground out over 200 yards with punishing and skilful running.”

Ipswich now focus their attention on the Maidstone Pumas whom they play in Kent on May 13, kick of 2.30pm, looking to build on this success.

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