The sides lined up for some elf-on-elf action!
On paper the Champions were by far the stronger side, with some truly excellent attacking players and as a result I had 290,000GP of inducements. I took a wizard and an extra apothecary, but was actually quite confident before the game. My opponent's team was not set up for bash at all – he had no mighty blow and only one tackle, and he only had four linemen to my seven, meaning that he'd soon have to put those expensive and fragile catchers in harm's way.
My plan was to kick first, pressure my opponent into scoring early and take my time equalising via a running game. I would then go for a 2-1 grind and score late in the second half, hopefully having removed some of his players during my drive.
The first part of my plan worked to perfection! I won the toss, kicked to him and he scored on turn 2! If I'd been in his shoes I'd have done the same – trying to go in 2-1 up at half time. His offence was supremely strong, and he moved the ball quickly around the pitch between his throwers.
I then received the ball, and caged up near the half way line, managing to hurt one of his players in the LOS blocks and immediately signalling my intentions by blitzing with Vanval (my MB-tackle catcher). Vanval managed to KO his only tackler, so at this point I'm 2 players up, with the ball safe by the LOS in a cage, and feeling good.
My opponent's strategy on defence becomes clear straight away, as he dances his AG5 blitzer through my cage to get a 1D block on the ball carrier, which spills the ball via a wrestle result. There follows a most un-elf-like drive, as I keep caging the ball up and rolling the ball from side to side, while my opponent keeps putting men into contact and trying to dodge through. I eventually manage to surf his AG5 blitzer, at the cost of losing a catcher to a surf, but as the half draws to a close I have 9 men against 7 and the ball is in the centre of the pitch.
Here I make my first bad mistake of the game.
It is turn 7, and I've made my push forward for the touchdown. I have four men who can score next turn. As my last action of the turn I try to dodge an unskilled catcher into a better defensive position. Of course I roll a 1 and without thinking I use a reroll. My last reroll. My opponent then knocks 1 of the potential scorers down and marks the other three.
If I had used the wizard at this stage I would have needed to make 2 2+ rolls to score (the wizard would have cleared a marker, and I'd have needed a hand off and a GFI. I choose not to use the wizard, which means I need to make an unskilled two dice block to clear the marker. I roll both down – skull, which means I go in trailing at half time 1-0.
OK, time for a rethink. I could stick with the original plan, which would mean playing for the draw, but I decide to try to score quickly and see what I can do with the wizard to force a turnover. I run the ball, but am unable to score a two turner as my block dice fail me. Nevertheless I cage it in my opponent's half and score on turn 11 with a quick pass and Vanval scampering clear.
I've removed a few more of my opponent's players at this stage, and it was 11 v 8 as my opponent lined up to receive. He stacked the left hand side and left his star thrower deep, so I kicked short and right, hoping for a blitz. No blitz, but the ball landed on the LOS where it was caught by his AG5 blitzer. My opponent pushed two catchers forward to make a scoring threat and made a cage for his blitzer on the left hand side. Crucially, he'd left his cage corners in contact with my players though, and I sensed the chance to win.
The wizard zapped the ball carrier with lightning, and my players bashed a hole, leaving Gil-Galad to dart in and grab the ball.
I now made my second key mistake. What I should have done was to make a half-cage (full protection was impossible) and invite my opponent to do what he could while marking his players up. What I actually did was try a lateral pass towards the safety of a group of my players. Of course the pass failed and scattered into an empty square, leaving one of his unmarked catchers to run for the end zone, while the other ran the width of the field, scooped up the ball and threw a scoring pass to take the lead 2-1.
Three turns left. I lined up with 11 v 7 (Vanval had 3 KOs in the game!), and I think my opponent assumed I would score a 2 turner, leaving him 2 turns to grab a winner. This time I played it out slowly though, and ran the ball through the centre with Turin (my blodge blitzer), who handed the ball to Gil-Galad to trot home with the equaliser on turn 16. 2-2 the final score.