Newly promoted to Division One SFC East, Wembley Stallions set themselves a stern preseason test against Premiership side Farnham Knights.
The Stallions started well and went into halftime in the lead. However the Knights showed their experience, made adjustments and went away with the win.
The Stallions defence started strongly, keeping the Knights to a quick three-and-out to begin the game.
The home side’s offence then showed their powerful running game with Emmanuel Olagbaju breaking through for 29 yards, before Quarterback Junior Price threw for 30 yards to Lewis Key. Olagbaju finished the drive with a run into the end zone; the extra point was missed giving the home side a 6-0 lead.
The Knights settled in with their next drive, helped however by an unsportsmanship penalty against Stallions Duncan McAslen. A false start on the next play pushed the away side back and the Stallions defence held firm, turning the ball over on downs at the Stallions 30 yard line.
The Stallions second possession proved just as fruitful as their first, with Junior Ejehu breaking a 25-yard run. The home side also benefited from an offside and an unsportsmanship penalties against the defence, before Price threw 24 yards to Aaron Greenidge. Ejehu finished the drive off with a running touchdown; Nick Glenday added the extras giving the home side a 13-0 lead.
The home side’s defence finished the quarter like they started, keeping the Knights to quick three-and-out and Chris Hinton adding the pressure by sacking the quarterback.
The experience of the Premiership side started to show in the second quarter, focusing Ejehu to fumble and the away side regained possession. The Knights showed off their powerful running game, but the Stallions defence made it difficult with two sacks from McAslen and Johann Johnson. The away side ran in the touchdown and completing a throw for a two-point conversion, reducing the Stallions lead to 13-8.
The Knights boosted by their touchdown, piled pressure on the Stallions’ offence during the next possession, causing another turnover when miscommunication at the line led to an early snap.
The Stallions’ defence held firm, with McAslen sacking the Quarterback again, then Sam Hyde made an interception in the end zone. Preventing the score and giving possession back to the home side with 2:30 left in the half.
After initially losing yards due to a false start penalty, Price threw for 20 yards to Krystian Czadowski, before the Knights defence stopped any further progression, forcing the Stallions to punt.
The Knights moved the ball up the field, but were unable to get past halfway before time expired in the first half. The score remained Stallions 13 Knights 8.
The home side started the third quarter running the ball with Ejehu, before Price scrambled to gain a new set of downs. Price then threw for 14 yards to Greenidge to get close to the halfway line before throwing an inception.
The Knights only used one passing play for 10 yards, as they ran up the field for a touchdown to take the lead. The attempt at a two-pointer conversion failed, to make the score 13-14.
The away side now with the lead rammed up the pressure, sacking the quarterback for a loss of six yards. A penalty for unnecessary roughness on John Blenkinsop pushed the offence further back, meaning a quick three-and-out.
Now in the fourth quarter, the Knights made more ground with the running game. The Stallions’ defence caused a fumble, but a penalty for offside went against them, kept the Knights’ drive alive. Sticking to the running game, with pass attempts being uncompleted; the Knights moved up the field until Stallions’ Luke Streeter and Kyle Purewal combined for a sack to stall the drive.
The Stallions’ offence suffered more penalties, pushing them back, leading to another quick three-and-out.
The Knights gained excellent field position with a 45-yard punt return. The away side alternated between run and pass, as they worked towards their third touchdown. The Stallions’ Basil Gazali put in a touchdown saving tackle, whilst Johnson sacked the quarterback to push the Knights back, but they couldn’t stop the away side extending their lead. The throw for a two-point conversion failed, to make the score 13-20.
Stallions’ Greenidge made a 26-yard kick return to put the Stallions into great position to start their next drive near halfway. Runs between Adam Hardacre and Chaki Smith and a penalty for pass interference put the home side on the 29-yard line. A short pass to Greenidge and a penalty for a late hit put the Stallions in a great position to score. A run of 8 yards by Hardarce set up the home side just six yards out, but a penalty for a false start pushed them back. Olagbaju ran the ball, but he fumbled and the Knights recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
The Stallions’ defence was not finished, focusing a fumble and recovered by Johnson on the next play. Putting the Stallions’ offence on the Knights’ nine-yard line. However, another pass interception put the ball back into the away side’s hands.
The Knights threw and ran the ball over halfway before the Stallions’ defence stopped their drive. However, with 30 seconds left in the game and the experience of a Premiership side, the Stallions were unable to gain ground. Ending the game the Knights give the Stallions a 20-13 loss and a steep learning curve.