Report to come when I pick my self-esteem up out of the gutter.
And here it is!
My opponent's lizard team didn't look too bad on paper. They had three diving tackle/sidestep skinks and an AG4 diving tackle skink which were their best players. Aside from that there was a level 5 Krox with block and multiple block, a frenzy saurus and a couple of guard sauri.
What gave me pause however was that this team had won its division in both its previous OCC seasons. I was therefore expecting the coach to be really good (and was not disappointed in that respect).
As I mentioned in last week's post I retired my ST2 kicker before the match, so that my opponent would not get a wizard in inducements. There was the possibility that he would cut two rookie skinks to get the wizard, and so I delayed updating my roster until just before the match in an effort to outfox him. In the end though he got the last laugh - he kept the skinks but also bought some coaches and cheerleaders, so wouldn’t have got a wizard anyway.
He won the toss and decided to kick and as soon as I saw his formation I knew I was in trouble. He set up with a perfect anti-elf defence - two sauri and a Krox close together in the centre, and then four columns consisting of a saurus in front of a DT skink. In order to break through I either needed to dodge through 2TZs to blitz a skink, or brave a dodge away from a DT skink. It was incredibly difficult to get anyone into his backfield. I satisfied myself with Cirdan collecting the ball and my blitzers knocking over a couple of sauri by the half way line, and he returned the favour by keeping his shape and hospitalising a lineman.
I moved the ball from one side of the field to the other over the next few turns, but the breakthrough eventually came through Tananmyr's sidestep. He was blitzed by the frenzy saurus and pushed twice. He sidestepped neatly through the lines, meaning that next turn he was able to hit the covering skink, the frenzy saurus was knocked over (Tananmyr's guard skill coming into play) and Werelenial was able to creep around the left hand side of the lizards' line into the backfield and knock out one of the other skinks.
I had three players through the lizards' line finally, and the Scutes had to respond, pulling players out of the centre including the Krox. I ran Vanval through the gap and he badly hurt a second diving tackle skink. It was at this point I made my only major mistake in the game - with the centre field wide open, I ran Cirdan and an X-shaped cage through the centre, within reach of the end zone. On the left hand side, despite being surrounded, the players I had first run into the lizards' backfield were faring ok in the fight, knocking over a couple of sauri and keeping clear of the Krox.
My opponent responded perfectly however, flooding my cage with players. The sides of the cage were marked with lizards, and two sauri knocked over Vanval on the corner and got into contact with the ball carrier. I was now in a terrible situation. The only way of getting free in the cage was to make a 1D block (or worse) at the corners, and all my players were covered. Nevertheless I had a plan. I blitzed all the covering defenders away from Werelenial on the left hand side, and all I needed to do was to dodge Cirdan away from his markers, into 1TZ, then I would be able to make a short pass over the Krox to him and score. So I needed a 3+ dodge (with a team reroll), and then a 3+ throw (with pass skill) and a 2+ catch (with catch) to score. About 75% probability of success. I rolled double 2 on the first dodge. Sigh. The ball bounced into the open, and the lizards smashed a space in my cage, while a skink scooped up the ball, handed it off to the AG4 chap, and said sneaky little bastard was off like a rat up a drainpipe. I couldn't catch him - I'd dropped a guy back as a sweeper in case the pass went wrong, but the skink was too fast. The lizards scored on turn 6.
What I should have done was left Cirdan deep with the ball rather than try the cage. Against a team this strong if I'm going to cage then I need a screen too. Still, learning experience etc. Bugger.
So. Two turns to score to salvage something from the half. Right then.
The lizards set up again in the same impenetrable formation, although this time they were on DT/sidestepper down. Having thought about it, I had come up with a way to get through which relied on dodging through the Krox's TZ (3+ with a reroll). The dice didn't let me down and I made a hole and put about 6 players through it. The Scutes got players back as best they could, but didn’t mark everyone, and Cirdan dashed forwards, made a short pass to Werelenial, who sprinted home on turn 8.
Now things got silly. I was concerned about the possibility of a one turner, and so set up carefully to make it as difficult as I could. What actually occurred was one of the most ridiculous plays I've ever seen, which started with a quick snap, continued with I think 7 (seven) blocks and blitzes to set up the one turner, and ended with the AG4 skink not even having to dodge. No rerolls were harmed in the scoring of this one turner as the lizards ended the half with 5 (five) unused rerolls. Utterly ridiculous play. Nothing I could do.
2-1 to the Scutes at half time and it was looking grim.
Matters continued grim in the second half as the Scutes had a pretty golden few turns to start things off - the ball landing from the kickoff by the end zone, way out of reach of my marauding catchers. A couple of elves were carted off the pitch, Vanval KO'd himself failing a dodge, and in about three turns the ball was in a saurus/krox cage by the halfway line near the right touchline. I had 8 players left against 11 from the lizards.
I'd been chatting to a former opponent in the comments to an earlier match report about the fact that I don't have anyone who can crack a cage. I'd said at the time that I prefer to defend and force my opponent to take risks than to take the risk of cracking a cage myself. I've also been waiting for an AG5 player to come along (and not die shortly afterwards to a lightning bolt) before taking leap. Looking at the pitch at this point I *really* wished I had a strip ball/leap catcher. Even with AG4. I resolved there and then to make such a player.
Failing that, however, I said a prayer to Nuffle and started rolling the dice. I pushed my players into contact with the cage and blitzed a cage corner with Werelenial, only getting a push. Drat. On the lizard's next turn they tried to bash clear with the krox, getting double skulls! ...and then passing the loner roll to use a reroll. Double drat. The cage was shifted to the left deeper into my half, and I thought fuck it and went for it. The only player in range was Cirdan, who dodged into three TZs and put a 1D block onto the blodge ball carrier, rolling a natural pow and killing him outright! What a player that is! I love that guy! Sadly the lizard's apothecary was able to save the life of the miserable skink, at the cost of broken ribs, and the ball bounced into the hands of the AG4 skink. Triple drat!
The lizards caged up again, and again I went for it, with Werelenial dodging in, smashing over the skink with a 1D block, and this time the ball bounced away to the side and into the hands of my ST4 lineman. He'd already moved that turn sadly, and with both teams having 1 turn each left, at last I had the ball in my hands and the chance for a last ditch play.
I ran Tananmyr into the lizard's half, and already had Gil-Galad there (he'd been bopping a DT skink on the head every turn for the past three turns).
On the lizard's last turn they were unfortunately able to roll the pow they needed to knock over my ball carrier. Then they knocked over pretty much everyone else on my team (with the exception of Tananmyr and Cirdan and crucially including Gil-Galad who failed his armour roll and would otherwise have been critical next turn), picked up the loose ball with a blodge skink. They they screened the skink. So I was pretty much fucked going into my turn. My best chance was a blitz with Cirdan and then if the ball fell safely I would need to dodge through a DT skink and past the krox, make an unskilled long pass to Tananmyr, who would need to dodge past a DT player to score. So some sixes needed then. In the end it was a step too far even for Cirdan, who rolled double push rerolled to double push, and the game ended with a first defeat of the season for the Guard.