Ipswich Cardinals start season with a dramatic win at Essex Spartans

Ipswich Cardinals quarterback Matt Agate lines up to take the snap in their win against Essex Sparta

Ipswich Cardinals quarterback Matt Agate lines up to take the snap in their win against Essex Spartans. Picture: RACHEL GOODE - Credit: Archant

BAFANL South Division Two East Essex Spartans 14 Ipswich Cardinals 15 A young Cardinals team travelled down the A12 as the 2018 season kicked off with a bang against the Essex Spartans, writes Steve Hawes.

Ipswich star Fabian Ortiz-Barrs stiff-arms a would-be tackler. Picture: RACHEL GOODE

Ipswich star Fabian Ortiz-Barrs stiff-arms a would-be tackler. Picture: RACHEL GOODE - Credit: Archant

Preseason 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 sadly died last year.

Led by quarterback 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, but Ipswich were up 6-0.

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 quarterback sneak for a touchdown. The two-point attempt was good and Spartans took the lead, 8-6.

Just before the break the Cardinals levelled the score at 8-8, with Zian Mussington sacking the Spartans’ slinger for a safety.

Ipswich fullback Henri Clements shrugs off a Spartans tackler. Picture: RACHEL GOODE

Ipswich fullback Henri Clements shrugs off a Spartans tackler. Picture: RACHEL GOODE - Credit: Archant


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The 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 end-zone for the lead as the clock ticked into the final five minutes.

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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 Clements set up the Cardinals inside the redzone and, on 4th and 10, Agate threw a pass towards Fab Ortiz Barrs, who plucked the ball out of the air to tie the game. Brad Ling confidently struck the game-winning extra point to send the sideline into raptures.

Head coach Sandy Francis said: “The squad is young, mentally tough and showed its character to come back and win.”

Ipswich travel next to the Maidstone Pumas on May 13.

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