Newcastle Vikings 14 Yorkshire Rams 44
The Rams secured post-season football for the second year in succession with a victory over the Newcastle Vikings.
Both teams went into the fixture knowing that a victory would see them into the playoffs at the expense of their opponents but it was the visiting team who would take the initiative early on as running back Keimar Stuart, below left, broke away on a long run into the end zone to open the scoring and then added the two-point conversion to put the Rams up 8-0.
The teams traded punts but the Rams’ defence showed their dominance when Eoin Byrne forced the ball out of the hands of the Vikings’ running back and Adam Cowley recovered the ball deep in the home side’s territory.
On the next drive, the Newcastle defence forced the ball backwards initially but quarterback Taylor Umland, below right, found Chris Winrow on third and goal to extend the score to 16-0.
Another fumble from Newcastle gave the Rams a further chance to add to the score but as the game moved into the second quarter the away team’s form dipped and the Vikings fought their way back into the game.
A Rams fumble on fourth down allowed the home side to drive downfield and with a pass interference call setting them up on the one-yard line, running back Jonny Mbuyi finished the job after finding a gap in the Rams defence. The two-point attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 16-6.
Yorkshire once again drove into Newcastle territory but this time an interception by Phil Sabelli ended any chance of scoring.
Just before half-time, and as the game became a messy affair with flags thrown everywhere, the Rams were forced to punt from their own end zone. The punt was returned for a touchdown by Diira Ejibe but holding was called on the returning team and the score remained the same. That was until a last-second pass was completed to the very same man, who would finally get his touchdown. The 2PAT was successful, leaving the game in the balance at 16-14 to the Rams at half-time.
A break turned out to be exactly what the visitors needed and having put the disappointing second quarter behind them, they turned the screw.
Cowley started the turnaround when he blocked and recovered a punt and Stuart started the second half as he did the first, with a 40-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion.
The Vikings offence were still productive, though, and threatened throughout the half but when a long snap to the punter went awry, Alex Hughes tackled the punter to allow Stuart to waltz into the end zone for another touchdown. Unfortunately, the refereeing crew felt that he had enjoyed the run too much and he was made to run it in again a few plays later.
This led to a strange moment in the game, as the Vikings felt that the ball was fumbled before getting into the end zone and whilst protesting there was a cascade of flags, as every referee threw them into the air.
The score was 32-14 and another errant punt allowed Liam Austin to add another rushing touchdown before Hughes turned back the clock to his running back days with a 60+ yard TD run to set the score at 44-14.
In between those Rams touchdowns, the Vikings thought they had added to the scoreboard but Mbuyi was adjudged to have high-stepped into the endzone and as was the case with the earlier Rams touchdown, the ball was pulled back and the score erased from the record.
When the final whistle went, the jubilant Rams players celebrated securing a first-round play-off clash this coming Sunday away to NFC1 South winners the Leicester Falcons.
Rams MVP Awards
Offensive MVP: Keimar Stuart
Defensive MVP: Chris Lawton
Coaches’ MVP: Elizabeth Bush
Ram of the Day: Alex Hughes