PORTSMOUTH Dreadnoughts’ Head Coach has spoken of his pride as the team prepare for their first play-off game in their history.
Luke Head-Rapson has praised his side as they finish the season with eight wins, having lost just twice.
The Hook Lane outfit will play the Cornish Sharks at home this Sunday thanks to a 29-0 win in their last SFC South Two league match against fellow play-off team Hertfordshire Cheetahs.
The Dreadnoughts needed the win to guarantee the all-important home advantage.
Head-Rapson said: ‘It feels amazing to get the win.
‘Beating Hertfordshire twice in three weeks is a great feeling.
‘We needed four wins out of the last five to get to the play-offs and we won five out of the last five – we have exceeded our targets there.
‘It is great to finish with a shut-out win and we scored some quality touchdowns.’
Any nerves from the hosts were soon steadied thanks to an early touchdown from running back Patrick Kanyinda from the 28-yard line.
Kicker George Evans converted the extra point giving the Dreadnoughts a 7-0 lead.
Hertfordshire tried to push upfield but two interceptions, first from safety Zac Edwards and then from safety Joe Clulow, stopped any progress.
And it was Clulow, voted the match’s most valuable player, who helped further the Dreadnoughts’ lead.
He intercepted the ball giving the Dreadnoughts a first down on Hertfordshire’s two-yard line.
Quarterback Stu Rees handed the ball to Kanyinda who ran it in for a touchdown.
In the next play, trickery from holder Aidan Lee saw the ball passed to kicker George Evans who ran it into the endzone for two extra points and a 15-0 lead.
And with momentum on their side, the home side added to their tally.
From the 35-yard line, Rees threw the ball to tight end Aron ‘Oz’ Evers who ran it in for the points. The extra point was good giving the Dreadnoughts a 22-0 lead at half time.
After the restart, Hertfordshire continued to struggle gaining yards.
And any hope of a comeback was put to bed with a stunning run by Kanyinda.
The running back ran 72 yards downfield for a fourth Dreadnoughts touchdown extending their lead, with the extra point, to 29-0.
And the hosts’ defence continued to hold firm during the rest of the half, forcing two fumbles in quick succession.
Line backer Ryan Oxley recovered the first after defensive tackle Nick Michael tackled the Cheetahs’ running back. Then, Clulow recovered the second fumble after a Cheetahs player failed to hold the ball which was caught by the safety.
Head-Rapson said the comfortable win against the tough opponent was what they needed as they head into Sunday’s match.
He added: ‘This gives us great confidence. The Cheetahs are a play-off calibre team.
‘Being able to get a win over them means a lot more because we will expect to face those sort of teams in the play-offs.’
And with at least one more game to go, Head-Rapson said he was proud of the Dreadnoughts for exceeding his expectations.
‘I always think we can win every game and we can,’ he said.
‘But going from winning four and losing six last season to winning eight and losing two is phenomenal.
‘I expected steady improvements but we have jumped ahead and now we look like a team that can make real noise in the play-offs.
‘The key is to keep going, the season isn’t over. We have to continue to push hard.
‘I have been at the Dreadnoughts for five years, I started as a player and all I ever wanted to do was do well. To lead the team is a honour.
‘I am extremely proud to be head coach and to just be part of the team.
‘It is the culmination of five years worth of effort from me and everyone else on the team.
‘The effort everyone has put in is what I am most proud of. Watching the game on Sunday and watching the tackles they put in, like we practiced, and giving 100 per cent – it’s great.
‘No matter what happens in the next game, I am proud of them.’
Photo Credit – Jess Edgcombe