Great Britain Lions

Last Updated: Jul 28, 2023 - 8:22:40 PM

Lions' Pride is Restored
Jul 27, 2023 - 9:44:46 PM

On Saturday the Great Britain Lions pulled-off a stunning victory against the current European Champions, Sweden, in the first ever match-up between the two nations.

Coming into the game the question on the mind of British football was if GB head coach, Riq Ayub, could turn-around his team’s fortune after the surprise defeat to Australia only four days previously. The Swedes having subsequently rolled-over Australia entered the game against GB as hot favorites. The Lions, however, always seem to respond best when they are the underdogs and Ayub has in recent years orchestrated some very surprising victories against the odds.

The Lions received the opening kick-off and quickly drove to Sweden’s ten-yard line, but a dropped catch in the endzone and a missed field goal left them with no points. Sweden then moved the ball confidently into the GB half until cornerback, Melvin Aitken made a superb interception to snuff-out the drive.

GB’s confidence rose rapidly and quarterback Fred Boyle (U of Hertfordshire / London Blitz), starting his first ever game for the national team, orchestrated another impressive drive, this time ending with a ten-yard reception to receiver Rod Bradley (U of Loughborough / London Blitz). The extra point kick was missed. (First Quarter: GB Lions 6 - 0 Sweden)

A third-down sack by GB veteran Brian Long (South Yorkshire Mustangs) effectively ended Sweden’s first drive of the second quarter. The ensuing punt was fielded and returned to Sweden’s 35-yard line by Clive Palumbo (Kent Exiles). On the next play, runningback Jermain Allen (London Cobras) burst through the line and sprinted to the endzone to add GB’s second score. The Lions attempted a two-point conversion but the pass fell incomplete. (GB 12 – 0 Sweden)

The Lions were now roaring and the defense again forced the Swedes to three-and-out. Boyle completed short passes to all his recievers whilst Allen, and fellow runningback Mahamadou (Dooma) Niakate, kept the ground-game rolling. With GB knocking on the door at the 7-yard line, Boyle caught Sweden trying to cover GB’s multiple threats and audibled a quarterback sneak, which turned into a seven-yard run for touchdown. Pete Rogers (Yorkshire Rams) slotted the extra point to give GB a 19-0 lead.

The Swedes were not yet ready to admit defeat and at this point put together their best drive culminating in their only score of the game. A rifled pass went straight through a GB defender’s hands to fall neatly to a Swedish receiver. Sweden converted the PAT kick (GB 19-7 Sweden). 

With less than three minutes in the half, a series of powerful running plays by 'Dooma' took Great Britain back into Swedish territory where Boyle connected on a touchdown pass to Rod Bradley. Bradley, star of the TV show Gladiators, showed all his athletic ability to split the Swedish defense, shrug-off a tackle and raced 45 yards for the score.

(Half-time: GB Lions 25 – 7 Sweden)

At the start of the second half the Swedish team looked to have regrouped and they embarked on a long, seven-minute drive to the Great Britain goal line, only to come-up short when Gary Clark (Coventry Jets) made a crucial fourth down tackle at the 1 yard line.

With the Lions backed-up and needing to get the ball away from their own endzone, Jermain Allen broke a long run to the halfway line. Unfortunately the Lions couldn’t capitalize and were forced to punt. Consolation came with Pete Roger’s punt which went out of bounds at the Swedish three. The teams then traded punts to leave the score unchanged at the end of the third quarter.

After the turn-around, the Lions offense proved they were not done yet. After a long drive it looked like they had scored on a one yard run only to be called-back for a penalty. Unable to make sufficient progress, the Lions settled for a field goal attempt but the ball sailed just wide of the posts.

By now the Swedes were getting desperate and turning more and more to an aerial attack. The Lions however, were having none of it! Fierce pressure and several sacks limited the effectiveness of Sweden's offense. The defensive line in particular were now hunting like their namesakes with the Swedish quarterback their prey.

With four minutes left the Lions drove to the 20-yard line and facing a fourth and long, elected to go for the field goal. Boyle took the snap, rolled-out to the left and scampered in for his second TD run of the day. Both teams tried long passes to add to their score in the dying seconds but no further score was recorded leaving the Lions to run-out clear winners, 31-7.

For his outstanding leadership of the offense, two passing and two rushing touchdowns, Fred Boyle was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the game.

Lions Head Coach, Riq Ayub, said: The loss to Australia provided some hard lessons. On reflection it was possibly the best thing that could have happened to us. The focus and commitment in the following days was magnificent. The staff and players were determined to show their true ability and all worked extremely hard. The outcome was this much deserved win against the European champions.

The GB Lions will compete in the six-team European Championship in 2010. Intriguingly, GB are drawn in Group A with Sweden and France (whom the Lions beat in November 2008 and have never lost to in five previous fixtures). Great Britain currently has a one hundred percent record against these two teams. If this success can be repeated next Summer, GB will qualify for the Gold Medal game against the winners of Group B. The final will be played in the Commerzbank Arena, Frankfurt on 31st July.

Photos c/o J Singer.

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