It was a savage opener on a blistering day for the two BAFA south Essex teams on Sunday, with the result being decided in the final seconds of the game.
The first fixture of the season for the Essex Spartans and the first official league match ever for the East Essex Sabres, headed up by coach Lee Joseph, things started slowly for both sides as enthusiastic series followed enthusiastic series but with no scores in the first quarter.
Spartans #24 Earl Gorman looked likely in the 2nd with a drive in excess of twenty yards, but the effort came to nothing and with the Sabres recovering a punt and beginning to show their dominance, the Spartans suffered as a string of penalties left them struggling for yardage at the far end of the field.
After almost the entire first half remaining scoreless, it was newcomers East Essex Sabres who finally opened scoring with a touchdown and two-point conversion in the last seconds of the first half, leaving the experienced visitors despondent and 8-0 down at the break.
The Spartans emerged a different team for the third quarter as a quick dash for a 1st down and an interception from #52 Tom Kitchen leading to a touchdown finally opened scoring for the Spartans. The conversion was missed but the Spartans quickly recovered a Sabres fumble and were on the front foot once again.
Both sides attempted field goals to manipulate the scoreline and both were missed; Spartans #1 Dwayne Ferdinand made a 30-yard dash to close the quarter and was tackled twenty yards from the end zone.
The final quarter saw the score transition from 8-6 to 14-20; Spartans #11 Norris Owusu took advantage of the proximity to run in the touchdown and a one-point conversion saw the Spartans take the lead for the first time all game.
The Spartans recovered another Sabres fumble but the home side were quick to retaliate with an interception on the five-minute warning, causing the Spartans to lose a good deal of earned territory. Refusing to let up despite the lengthy match, the Sabres snatched back the lead with a second touchdown and missed their conversion to pull the score just one point in their favour, 14-13 with two minutes to go.
Visiting Spartans dug in and after a difficult game, QB Tom Macfarlane pitched to Rob Jelly with less than 30 seconds on the clock, to secure the final touchdown and one-point conversion to claw back the victory from the very pressing jaws of imminent defeat.
An immensely challenging game from both sides in which the underdogs so nearly had their day; the Sabres return to the field next weekend to take on the Ipswich Cardinals, whilst the Spartans return to training to face the Cardinals on 7th May.