Leicester Falcons 27 Yorkshire Rams 8
The Rams’ season ended in the first round of the Division One play-offs with defeat to the Leicester Falcons.
Spencer Whybrow‘s touchdown was in vain as an aggressive Falcons side proved too much for the Rams, meaning for the second year running it was a sadly brief visit to the post-season.
The game had been played under a question mark, with three of the Leicester players not listed on their roster, but after the match the issue was quickly put down to a paperwork error – the team had handed the wrong copy of their roster to the Rams – and the result stood.
The Rams received the kick-off but were stopped and after a short punt, it was NFC1 South champions Leicester who drove in the first points of the game via the versatile Taylor Brown. The two-point conversion was nullified by a holding penalty, forcing the Falcons to instead settle for the kick and a 7-0 lead.
Back came the Rams and after an impressive drive early in the second quarter, Taylor Umland threw to the corner of the end zone where Whybrow, right, used all of his veteran nous to block out Leicester’s ball-hawking defensive backs and reel in the touchdown catch. The two-point conversion made it 8-7 to the black and gold.
A physical encounter saw several penalty flags and injury stoppages, the most serious in the early stages forcing Rams stalwart Adam Cowley out of the match with a suspected knee ligament tear.
Having toyed with retirement after last season, the long-time defensive lineman and linebacker insists he is hanging his number 40 jersey up for good this time around, meaning this would prove to be his last game. If so, Cowley will go with the warmest wishes of all at the Rams after a tremendous career on the gridiron – it’s been a pleasure playing alongside you.
Brown ran in a second Falcons score, and this time the extra two points stood as receiver Kyren Watts made the catch in the corner of the end zone.
A missed Falcons field goal meant it remained 15-8 at half-time but Jack Verling’s touchdown early in the second half extended the home side’s lead to 21-8 and left the Rams with it all to do if they were to keep the promotion dream alive.
The only consolation for the Rams was that Olney’s length-of-the-field return to the end zone was chalked off for a blatant block in the back near halfway – though Rams players were more concerned with getting medical attention for centre Jack Marshall, with fellow lineman Ian Lodge particularly vocal.
Another red zone interception, this time by Nick Harry, all but ended the Rams’ hopes, especially once Leicester drove the ball downfield for Brown to complete his hat-trick.
A last attempt to narrow the deficit came to nothing when a pass from Umland, above, deflected off the hands of Christian Davies and would not quite drop to fellow receiver Tom White in the end zone, and Leicester were able to kneel out a hard-fought win.
Despite the disappointment, the Rams returned home with pride intact after another strong season under the stewardship of David Pawson, Nathan Deeley, Richard Handby and their coaching team.
Many thanks to everyone who contributed on or off the field to the Rams’ season, and to all our supporters – we look forward to seeing you again next year for another promotion push!
Offensive MVP: Keimar Stuart
Defensive MVP: Vimbayi Mudoti
Coaches’ MVP: Spencer Whybrow
Ram of the Day: Chris Peel
Photos by Chris Pullan and Alex Daniel