Yorkshire Rams 20 Manchester Titans 14
A storming start saw the Rams 12-0 up after touchdowns from Taylor Umland, on a quarterback sneak, and Chris Winrow.
Manchester pulled one back but Spencer Hind‘s spectacular score made it 20-6 at half-time and the Rams defence stepped up in the second half, with the Titans’ late touchdown in vain despite a nervy moment on the ensuing onside kick.
Chris Peel was twice stopped from close range but Umland stepped up on third down, moving up under centre and burrowing over, right, on the hip of guard Mike Richmond.
Manchester’s first drive stalled and when they attempted to punt out of their offensive formation, they found 6ft 6in defensive lineman Sam Clutterbrook in the way. His block gave the Rams great field position and Umland hit slot receiver Winrow for six points.
George Slade pulled a score back for the visitors in the second quarter but as half-time approached, Chris Lawton’s key pass break-up allowed the Rams to once again drive downfield. Facing fourth and long with seconds remaining, it was the cue for a breathtaking piece of improvisation from Umland and Hind.
The American QB was almost sacked deep in the backfield but managed to dump an off-balance throw to Hind, left. The rookie running back was still short of the first down line but turned upfield, getting the initial yardage required before reaching the pylon behind a fine block from Davies. With Manchester stunned, Winrow added the two-point conversion.
The Titans briefly thought they had opened the second half with a touchdown, only for their receiver to come down out of bounds under pressure from Winrow in the end zone, below right.
Spencer Whybrow kick-started the Rams’ second-half offence with a good contested catch, celebrating by pointing to the bicep bands gifted to him during the interval by close friend and history-making quarterback Lil Bush.
A good catch by two-way player Winrow and a penalty for a defender grabbing Umland’s facemask helped the Rams advance, with an opportunity also for Bush to take some offensive snaps.
Into the fourth and the Titans’ Eurenna Semper collected his second personal foul penalty, both for late hits on Umland – the resulting one-game suspension will rule him out of July 16’s third meeting of the season.
The Rams were now firmly in clock-control mode, with Hind, Stuart and Elliott Jackson grinding out yards on the ground, though another fourth-down play saw Umland hit Winrow out of play action for a first down.
A sack of Umland then turned the ball over on downs and Ryan Newton’s touchdown brought Manchester within one score.
With less than a minute remaining, an onside kick was inevitable and, after a moment of high alarm as it bounced through the hands of Rams receiver Jeff Quartey, Lysander Code recovered the loose ball with fellow linebacker Robbie Cruickshank-Sutton providing insurance.
Umland knelt out a memorable win to keep the Rams’ bid for a division title alive – wins in the remaining three games would clinch top spot.
Offensive MVP: Keimar Stuart
Defensive MVP: Eoin Byrne
Coaches’ MVP: Mark Gaze
Ram of the Day: Chris Winrow
Main picture by Nathan Deeley, others by http://www.alexdanielphotos.co.uk