Manchester Titans 21 Yorkshire Rams 6
The Rams lost a tight game to their NFC1 North title rivals the Manchester Titans at Belle Vue National Speedway Stadium.
Despite Christian Davies’ second-half touchdown catch, the home side came out on top 21-6 in a game that saw defences on top most of the way.
Two huge catches from Titans wideout James Newnes and a crucial fumble by Rams running back Chris Peel were all that truly separated two evenly-matched teams, who will renew their rivalry on July 1 in an eagerly-awaited Saturday night game at John Charles Stadium.
There was a poignant moment before the match, Manchester’s first at home since the May 22 terrorist attack in their city, as Rams defensive captain Eoin Byrne presented his Titans counterparts with a commemorative wreath.
Once the game began, the first quarter was scoreless as a Rams defence led by a fired-up Adam Cowley set the tone and the Titans responded in kind.
The home side broke the deadlock early in the second quarter though, Sam Bloomfield arcing a long pass over the Rams defence which Newnes raced on to and scored with a brilliant sliding catch, before pointing to the heavens in celebration.
A Rams drive stalled in their own red zone and pressure from Manchester led to an uncharacteristic slice out of bounds by Dan Haywood, who had previously pinned the home side deep with some excellent punts.
Manchester, though, turned the ball over after a failed fourth-down play and a Taylor Umland QB sneak earned a Rams first down and led to the key moment of the game.
The Rams’ offensive line opened up a gaping hole for Peel but as he tried to move up the gears with the end zone beckoning, a Manchester defender got a crucial hand to the ball and jarred it loose.
The hosts recovered and a 50-yard play to Newnes, a virtual carbon copy of the throw and catch for his touchdown, set them up in position to score on a short pass for a 14-0 lead.
Into the second half and a Chris Lawton interception and some blockbusting running by rookie Spencer Hind helped the Rams build some momentum, Umland eventually finding close friend Davies in the back of the end zone. With kicker James Hudson off the field injured, the Rams opted to go for a two-point conversion but Davies was ruled short.
Manchester responded and a long scramble by Bloomfield kept their drive going. He then hit a diving George Slade just short of the goal line before throwing his third touchdown pass of the day on the next play.
An interception by the Titans safety iced the game and they moved to 6-0 for the season, with the Rams at 3-2. The Doncaster Mustangs provide our next opponents on June 25 before the home rematch with Manchester.
Offensive MVP: Chris Peel
Defensive MVP: Chris Lawton
Rookie of the Day: Spencer Hind
Ram of the Day: Charlie Gough