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Centurions do the double over Lancaster in tight Roses victory

York Centurions came out on top in a tight Roses encounter on Saturday (Thumbnail credit Image: Philippa Grafton)

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Coming off of the back of their most successful season to date the York Centurions went into Saturday's game against the Lancaster Bombers quietly confident, despite now being the only team in the history of the competition to not have won a Roses fixture.

After a lengthy delay waiting for ambulances, those Centurions for whom this was their last game all stepped forward to receive applause for their contributions. On his final game, President Chris Whitley elected to receive the ball first and try to make Lancaster play catch up by scoring early.

Rookie running back Sam Parke soon showed that the decision to start him was the correct one, following good blocking from the Centurions offensive line he gored the Bombers' defence, running for 94 yards on the day.

The Centurions were forced to punt and bring on Arthur Pitt's defence who promptly stopped any hopes the large crowd of Lancaster supporters had of the Bombers scoring on their first drive.

Both teams were clearly rusty after a long break from football, both sides gave away excessive amounts of penalties, many from simple mistakes.

More hard hitting defence from the Centurions gave their offence ample chances to get the go ahead points. Robert Wickham's accurate passing gained good field position, veteran fullback Nick Walter hammered home a touchdown, draped in defenders, and then kicked the one point conversion himself to give the Centurions a 7-0 lead.

Lancaster responded well, utilising their own passing game to good effect and soon started to pick up first downs against the York defence, despite bat downs from strong safety James Speck and good pressure on the passer from the York defensive linemen. Soon enough the Bombers found themselves in the York red zone and completed a quick pass over the York defence for a neat score. The Bombers kicked their own one point conversion to bring it to 7-7.

With time ticking down before the half, the Centurions soon found themselves within striking range again, however the Lancaster defence rallied well and charged down the attempted field goal, stopping York from gaining a valuable lead before halftime.

The third quarter saw the Bombers' momentum continue through the air, their receivers soon broke coverage and made some impressive catches downfield. York were powerless to stop the determined men in red from pounding the ball over from one yard and taking a 14-7 lead.

The boys in black and gold were forced to punt multiple times as they found their run game being stuffed and their passing suddenly stopped in its tracks but the ever reliable York defence did not give up. Excellent pressure up front, including a sack for York Sport President Sam Asfahani, saw Lancaster give the ball back to York with just under five minutes on the clock remaining.

A last gasp attempt at victory saw the Centurions cut through the Bombers' territory with a bombardment of successful passes, they soon found themselves inside the Lancaster 15 yard line. With three minutes remaining, the game was in the hands of the York Quarterback Robert Wickham. Wickham took the snap and stepped into the well protected pocket created by the Centurions offensive line, he fired a perfectly weighted pass into the path of third year veteran receiver James Durham who ran in for the score. Durham was soon penalised for excessive celebration as he unsuccessfully attempted to dunk the ball over the bar, but such things could be forgiven when it was potentially the game winning score.

The true test of Wickham's nerve was yet to come as the Centurions elected to attempt a two point conversion instead of the easier single point. The Quarterback took it upon himself to ram home the ball from two yards, sending the York side-line wild. The Centurions defence just had to hold out for 2 minutes and Roses glory would be theirs.

Lancaster managed to drive their way back up to the half way line with an impressive kick-off return and desperately looked to the air to bring victory back from the jaws of defeat. The York secondary was ready for the aerial threat and cornerback Seb Booth picked off the long ranged attempt, sealing the victory.

Emotions ran high as students in their final year did what no other Centurion has done before and beat the Bombers in the Roses.

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