Glasgow University Tigers overpowered the Teeside Cougars as they impressively continued their march to the playoffs. Whilst the start of the season saw the new squad struggling to generate momentum, their imperious home form at the aptly named ‘Fortress’ Garscube, has propelled their charge into the post-season. Caused largely by the hostile environment of the Garscube, it has seen many fancied teams come and crumble in the face of the raucous, partisan home crowd.
A congested first quarter saw both teams struggle to create as defensive might quickly stifled out any potential attacking flare. It was fine reflection of the Tigers resilience that in the tense opening exchanges, as they found themselves camped in their own half, they were able to repel the intense Cougar pressure. The Teesside outfit dictated the match early on yet in the face of fierce GU defence quickly seemed to run out of ideas.
Teeside often seemed to panic at the sheer physicality of the Tigers defence. Time after time Cougars fumbled the ball in contact, whilst their quarterback was on several occasions guilty of attempting some wildly ambitious throws in a desperate attempt to break through the unyeilding Glasgow defence.
The Teesside quarterback, who seemed to lose any semblance of confidence after an early stumble, was erratic all afternoon. This allowed Glasgow to constantly turn defence into attack, as constant sloppiness and some outstanding GU agility saw the Tigers intercept 15 times as their North East rivals continued to squander promising field position.
As the defence refused to buckle, the tigers attack early seemed jaded yet the spark was injected by the ever lively Nick Halfpenny. A smart interception signalled a significant momentum switch and gave Glasgow the offensive impetus from which the imploding Cougars never looked like recovering.
In a game that had been so dominated by defence, it was always going to take something special to break the stalemate. A move straight off the training ground saw Rory McAlpine released on the wing, and the running back was able to unleash his dazzling pace as he charged the length of the field, leaving the desperate Cougars backline scrambling in his wake.
The Tigers faithful had become slightly restless, yet McAlpine’s brilliance saw anxieties erased and they didn’t have to wait long before there was more to shout about.
It came thanks to the towering figure of Matthew Crammond. Cougars defending deep in their own half saw a kick charged down, and after a melee in Teesside end zone, it was the imposing Fresher who rose from amongst the chaos with the ball.
A succession of intelligent passes drove the Tigers forward whilst his vision to unleash David McCann for the third touchdown was simply astounding, as a deft pass wrong footed much of a static Teeside defensive line.
Ruari McKeon and Nick Halfpenny touch downs either side of a Cougars consolation saw the Tigers romp away towards the end with a victory margin that perhaps flattered their exhausted visitors. McKeon scrambled home from ten yards, whilst Halfpenny capped a fine individual performance with a superb darting run in from 20 yards.
Afterwards coach Ian Cochrane was enthused about his side’s performance in the match, and optimistic about the team’s Collegebowl aspirations:
“We are really starting to play our best football now which is great because we are now reaching play off time. It’s a young squad we’ve got out there but they are really starting to gel as a unit.
“I don’t think any team will really fancy a trip up here because our record on home soil is staggering. If we can find a bit more form on the road this team will definately go places.”
The positive sentiments were reiterated by line backer Ross Wilson:
“Everything is really starting to come together nicely for the side-all the pieces are starting to fall into place.We are in the play-offs now,and everyone knows anything can happen!”
Tigers now go on to face the Sunderland Spartans as they continue their push for Northern Conference glory.