Nuneaton Jaguars Head Coach Dave Winter says it feels ‘surreal’ that his side has been crowned U16 Britbowl Champions. The Jags put on a dominant showing in the finals at Loughborough University – the home of the NFL Academy.
They defeated Manchester Titans 40-0 to set up a showdown with Rushmoor Knights who they beat 46-20 to clinch the title in what Coach Winter feels was culmination of nine months’ hard graft.
Victorious: Nuneaton Jaguars
The performances of the Jags also bodes well for the Great Britain U17s – who face Norway in Oslo on August 20 – with the Midlanders boasting several players who are involved in the national youth programme including Gabe Butler-Clarke, Max O’Grady and Silas Sibanda.
Winter said: “Our team identity has always been to enjoy ourselves and to have fun and whilst the players have always worked hard individually, the club has stayed true to its identity throughout the season. The team boasts a fast and aggressive defence and we knew we needed to be at it’s very best on the Finals weekend.”
Coach Winter attributes the shut-out against the Titans to the qualities of his Defensive Line – led by captain William Taylor in tandem with Ben McNeal and Beckham Simpson. In contrast, the victory against the Knights was dictated by the offence – led by Anthony Agranovsky and centre, Ben Koolen.
The team was able to develop a hard running style behind the talents of Britbowl MVP Simon Olaifa, who proved unplayable at times. Against the Knights in the final, he laid the foundation for victory in the evenly contested first half with three rushes and two touchdowns before the break.
Jags MVP: Simon Olaifa
The Plate championship was secured by Birmingham Lions – which was the only team to win two games in the round robin tournament – beating Swindon Storm and Yorkshire Academy Assassins.
Lions Head Coach Justin Lester said: “Aside from the rain, the day was extremely enjoyable for all players and thankfully we made it through injury free. The entire team contributed to the tournament win. Our defence collectively was the MVP for me – they made some great one-on-one and team tackles, showing positional discipline and ultimately a team mentality to stop the opposing offences.
“The feeling at the end of the day was amazing and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world when seeing players and parents’ faces light up upon the realisation of having achieved something; these are memories that will live with my team, much as our 2018 Plate winning team still talk about it today.”
Plate winners: Birmingham Lions
Photography: Dik Ng