As has become customary in the past few years, the Warriors finished the regular season by clinching a playoff berth to BritBowl, but unfortunately what has also become customary is the fact that they got beaten in the final.
In all of the last 3 seasons, the Warriors have made it all the way to the BritBowl final, only to be beaten in the last few seconds! Call it consistency, call it bad luck, call it what you want, but the Warriors have come up short in each of the last three showpiece finals of British American Football when it looked like the moment was theirs.
In 2010 Woodham were beaten by the London Warriors in a thrilling 47-44 final at Worcester Warriors rugby union stadium, where Woodham had the ball at the London 2 yard line with 2 seconds to go, but could not find a way to clinch the decisive touchdown. The following year in 2011 at the Crystal Palace Sports Centre, Woodham again reached the final, this time against the Highland Wildcats from Inverness. Trailing for most of the game, Woodham took a dramatic lead with only 6 seconds left on the clock, only to be beaten by a Hail Mary ‘do or die’ play by Highland as time ran out.
So this year was supposed to be different, this year was supposed to be Woodham’s year. Coming so close on the last two occasions had given the squad that hunger for victory, that hunger to finish a job that had been started three years ago. Going into the finals with 11 wins and one loss gave the team confidence that they were in good shape, but that the one loss meant that they were not untouchable. The quarter final match up against a strong Marlow Wolves team proved to be very tough, and throughout most of the game it looked as if this would be the end of the 2012 road for the Woodham team. However, as with every BritBowl game the Warriors had played in both 2010 & 2011, the game came down to a decisive score in the last few seconds. Andrew Vincent broke a tackle to run the ball in for a Woodham touchdown with only 6 seconds left on the clock. Cue the Woodham sideline to erupt into wild celebrations over their 32-27 win!
After the quarter final dust had settled, the Warriors had to get ready for the big showdown – a meeting with the Burnley Tornados, the team that had inflicted the Warriors only loss of the season and the only loss that the Warriors had suffered in the last 3 regular seasons! The game was tight, with two good teams giving everything, but with just over a minute remaining, Woodham scored what proved to be the winning touchdown in a nail biting 18-14 win.
So here it was again, familiar territory, a BritBowl final against a tough opponent, the London Warriors. Woodham started slowly and fell behind as the rain came in. Play was suspended for lightning just before half time with Woodham trailing 14-12. When play resumed, Woodham looked sharp and re-energised, scoring immediately and then taking the lead into the 2nd half. With only 6 minutes of the game remaining, Woodham were up by one score and looked strong. Trying to run the ball in for what would surely have been a decisive score and would have closed the game down, Woodham fumbled the ball and let the London Warriors back into the game. London scored and then with that, the momentum shifted. Woodham responded with a score of their own, but it was now the London driving to win the game inside the last 2 minutes. With just over a minute remaining, London scored what proved to be the winning touchdown and even though Woodham got the ball back with a 1 minute 20 on the clock, they couldn’t find a way to break down the London defense.
Getting to a final is always an achievement, especially in a national competition, but finishing runners-up three years in a row is heart breaking. Head Coach Jon Tait said ‘Although I can’t hide my disappointment at the result, I am so proud at my player’s effort today. Playing three tough games in one day in a contact sport like this is very hard. We had players who were bruised, battered and mentally worn out. But when I kept asking them to give me one more push, they kept responding. You can’t ask anymore of young players. Days like this test your character and will power. Experiences like this will make us stronger as people and as a group’.