After the fixture bungling of 1995 and 2000 still haunting BAFA, they must have sensed a case of deja-vous in 2001. The Lions were drawn to face Spain in a one off knock out quarterfinal clash with the winners playing Germany in the semi-finals. However, the Germans (who had defeated France 31-18 in their quarter-final) had been disqualified from the tournament for a rule infraction and there was the real possibility of the Lions qualifying for the final if they could overturn the Spaniards at Saffron Lane in Leicester.
The date was set for May 26th, but it soon became clear that Spain would not be travelling to fulfil this fixture as one of their clubs had a Eurobowl clash that same day. In theory Spain should have been thrown out there and then, but BAFA moved the date to accommodate them, and it was set for June 17th.
Great Britain 27-6 Spain
European Nations Championship Qualifier at Saffron Lane Sports Stadium, Leicester - 17th June 2001
The GB Lions cruised into the European Nations Championship semi-finals with an impressive 27-6 victory against Spain at Saffron Lane Sports Stadium, Leicester.The focus in the British game on running plays made the difference in the game. The Lions running backs and run-stuffing linebackers dominated the game. The other single biggest difference was kicking which consistently gave points and field position to the Lions.
Head Coach, Riq Ayub said, "Of course, I am delighted with the win, especially considering how little time we had together. We will learn a lot from this game, both on and off the field. Right now, I just want to get home and rest, but tomorrow the hard work begins."
The first quarter was played almost entirely in the Spanish half, but the Lions could not hit paydirt.
After a scoreless first quarter that had promised so much, the second quarter saw the deadlock broken. After runs from Justin Oke and Collis Seale-McConnie (both London O's) the first points came from a one yard run by Birmingham Bulls' rising star, Kofi Campbell. Andy Boyle nailed the extra point for a 7-0 Great Britain lead.
The feeling was that Spain needed to score on their next drive for their best chance of winning this encounter. Tackles from Mark Cohen, a five yard sack by Andrew Mackintosh from East Kilbride were not enough to stop the drive culminating in a scoring reception by Christian Llitjos to bring the Spanish back into it, but their attempted two point conversion failed leaving GB ahead by one.
QB Junior Price
Runs from Justin Oke and Campbell, as well as receptions from Nick Burt were not enough to reach the endzone and the Lions had to settle for Boyle's 35 yard field goal to give GB a 10-6 lead.
Ahmed Hashim of Birmingham brought Spain's next drive to an end by an interception.
In the third quarter Spanish gains on the ground were short. The Spanish passing game was not working consistently either. Marco Fasulo recorded a 17-yard sack while Gary Chalmers of East Kilbride and Francis Hatega of the O's defended the pass well. Although the Spanish managed some excellent catches, they could not sustain a drive.
For the Lions too, success in the passing game seemed to elude them for the second half. Instead the crowd were treated to a diet of Campbell and Seale-McConnie until Roland Williams (London O's) was introduced with electrifying results.
However, penalties called back what would have been longest run of the day and the Lions went for the field goal to extend the lead. Boyle stepped up, and from 23 yards made the kick look easy to put the Lions up by seven.
Spain started a good looking drive in the fourth quarter, and while some present were considering the possibility of overtime, the drive was halted by the London O's Wes Roach's interception.
The run continued to be the best route for the British, Williams taking the ball into the endzone for the score. Boyle made the extra point to give the Lions a commanding 20-6 advantage. The Lions wrapped it up when a blitz from Hatega led to a fumble. Fasulo picked up the loose ball for a 25-yard touchdown. Boyle made his third PAT of the day to complete the scoring.
Cohen ended the game with an interception on the last play.
"We went into this game with 14 defensive players, that should not have been enough at this level, " said defensive co-ordinator Leroy Slue. " But all credit to those guys, they played non stop hard nosed football. I'm really pleased for them."
QB - Junior Price (London Olympians)
RB - Jay Alexander, Kofi Campbell (both Birmingham Bulls), Roland Williams, Justin Oke, Collis Seale-McConnie (all London Olympians)
WR – Mark Cohen, Ed Winter, Dave Winter, Nick Burt (all Birmingham Bulls)
OL – Andy Maloney, Ian Morgan, Neil Jenkins (all Birmingham Bulls)
DL – Marco Fasulo (London Olympians), David "Farmer" Glover, Mark Connolly (Birmingham Bulls)
LB. Andrew Mackintosh, Gary Chalmers (both East Kilbride Pirates), Tim Newton (London Olympians)
DB. Ivor Clark (East Kilbride Pirates), Ahmed Hashim (Birmingham Bulls), Francis Hatega, Wes Roach (both London Olympians)
K. Andy Boyle (London Olympians)
P. Mark Cohen (Birmingham Bulls)
Head Coach – Tariq Ayub
Defensive Co-Ordinator – Leroy Slue
Full squad list not known
Following the game, BAFA received another bombshell when the newly elected German influenced EFAF committee announced that not only had Germany been reinstated into the 2001 tournament after appealing their expulsion, but that the Lions would have to travel to Germany to face them in the semi-final by 30th June. The Lions could not complete that fixture with less than 2 weeks notice, and GB were expelled from the 2001 European Championships. As such, Germany received a bye into the final where they got their revenge against Finland (Finland beat them in the 2000 European Championship final). Germany took the championship for the first time with a 19-7 win in Hanau.