Lions capture 13th straight NSW title

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Sydney University Lions won a 13th consecutive Waratah Bowl with a come-from-behind 36-18 result over West Sydney Pirates in the NSW American Football final at David Phillips Field on December 19.

It took a herculean effort from running back Alex Watson to secure the NSW title. Watson ran 142 yards for the match and secured a touchdown in leading the Lions victory and earning MVP status.

The Lions notched up 397 yards in attack, much of it in the second half as they wore down the Pirates defence.

Indeed, the Pirates held an 18-14 lead until late in the third quarter when Watson started making yards and quarterback Kiernan Dorney began finding his receivers on deep vertical routes. The Lions scored two touchdowns in the last minute of the third to take the wind out of the Pirates sails.

Dorney threw two touchdown passes and ran one in himself in the win.

As Roger Kelly reported in the American Football International Review, the final was a tale of two halves.

“The Lions took an early 7-0 lead as Dorney carried the ball in from 13 yards out at the five minute mark of the first quarter,” Kelly reported.

“But the Pirates responded as backup quarterback Nicholas Kalebic found Zach Hughes for a two yard touchdown pass to pull West Sydney to within 7-6.

“Dorney then led Sydney U on a 74 yard, six play drive hitting Josh Yerrell from 15 yards out to extend the lead to 14-6. But the Pirates responded again with starting quarterback David Ward engineering his own long drive from the 14 yard line.

“Six plays later Albert Bernard pounded the ball in from the six yard line and West Sydney pulled to 14-12. Both teams played tough defence and the score remained 14-12 at the break.

Surprisingly, the Pirates took the lead in the second half as Kalebic, back in at quarterback, marched his team methodically down the field scoring the go ahead touchdown from the six yard line giving West Sydney an 18-14 lead midway through the third quarter.

“However, Watson, now began gaining momentum, finally scored on a three yard run, scoring the two point conversion as well and the Lions regained the lead 22-18.

“Lions defensive back Keenan Mackett picked off a David Ward pass on the next series and Dorney made the Pirates pay hitting Sam Darcy for a 42 yard touchdown and Sydney U jumped out to a 29-18 lead at the end of the third period.

“The stunned Pirates could not get untracked after that and with Watson running the ball, the Lions maintained possession much of the fourth quarter. Ward was picked off again with three minutes left by defensive back Scott Thompson, who took it into the end zone from 25 yards out giving the Sydney University Lions their 13th straight Waratah Bowl win 36-18.”