Manchester Titans 41 Yorkshire Rams 21
The Rams suffered a disappointing third loss of the season as the Manchester Titans sealed the NFC1 North title at Belle Vue.
Touchdowns from Chris Peel and Mohammed Arfan gave the Rams a 13-8 lead inside the first quarter, raising hopes of a second successive win over the Titans and the chance to pip our rivals to top spot.
But the Titans hit back and despite Elliott Jackson‘s second-half score, Manchester pulled clear. Late injuries, most notably to key linebacker Charlie Gough, gave the Rams a worry going into a key last two games of the regular season.
Manchester scored from their first drive as Ryan Newton was ruled, after some debate between the officials, to have got in for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked.
The Rams hit back straight away with a long drive featuring no fewer than three fourth-down conversions, the last of which saw Chris Peel batter over the line for a touchdown.
The powerful running back, left, was playing just two days after his own wedding – warmest congratulations from all the Rams to ‘Tuesday’ and the new Mrs Emma Peel!
And the Rams soon led when Taylor Umland hit Arfan, below right, on a short slant route for a touchdown. Remarkably, it was not just the receiver’s maiden touchdown but his first catch as a Ram.
Mark Gaze had successfully kicked the extra point after the first touchdown but this time his effort was blocked and returned for two points to the Titans, leaving the Rams just five points ahead.
The Rams’ offence kept battling and Jackson showed a mix of power and elusiveness to cut the deficit, Chris Winrow adding the two-point conversion to cut the gap to 14 points.
But Newton completed his hat-trick and Manchester commenced their title celebrations on the sideline, dousing their coaches with their water buckets even as the game was still going on.
A game played in an excellent spirit ended on a sour note as a cut block left Gough on the turf with a nasty-looking leg injury, his reaction and those of the team-mates around him showing the extent of the concern.
Further injuries along the offensive line, with Jack Marshall, Phil Gatenby and Ross Dixon all affected, added to the team’s worries ahead of key games away to the West Coast Trojans this coming Sunday and the Newcastle Vikings on July 30 which will determine the Rams’ play-off participation.