Manchester Titans 25 Yorkshire Rams 8
The Rams’ unbeaten start to the season was brought to an end on Sunday with defeat across the Pennines.
Though the game was more evenly-matched than the scoreline indicates, a below-par performance on a blazingly hot day in Stockport left plenty to work on ahead of the rematch at South Leeds Stadium in a fortnight’s time.
Four Titans touchdowns, including a hat-trick for tight end Ste Kimmins, meant Alex Hughes‘ fourth-quarter score was mere consolation for a Rams team coming off wins over the West Coast Trojans and Gateshead Senators.
The Rams received the ball from the opening kick-off and drove deep inside opposition territory before failing to convert on fourth down, and the Titans came straight back downfield. Quarterback Alan Mead hit Kimmins near the goal-line to set up a score on another pass to wide receiver George Slade.
A Kimmins touchdown made it 12-0 before the end of the first quarter – a bad snap cost Manchester the first extra point, and an attempted fake on the second was snuffed out by Jonny Dudley. The Rams defence then began to get to grips with their opponents and there was no further scoring before half-time, with the Rams seeing a Dudley field goal attempt blocked just before the half.
The cagey pattern continued into the second half but the game came to life with a post-play altercation in the third quarter which saw penalties on both teams and an ejection for Rams rookie Matty Napier for an alleged punch.
It was the second game running in which the Rams have suffered this fate but Ross Dixon’s ejection at Gateshead was overturned by BAFA on video review – and on this occasion even Manchester’s Twitter feed described the decision against Napier as “harsh”.
The hosts seized on the enforced reshuffle with gusto and Kimmins again found the end zone, with the touchdown converted – and he was at it again in the fourth quarter to set up a 25-0 lead.
The consolation score came about in unusual circumstances as the Rams were forced to punt from their own half, but Dudley’s long boot took a favourable bounce forward and Matt Fox and Tom White led the chase, White downing the ball at the one-yard line.
James Hudson forced a fumble on the next play and Ram of the Day Hughes, the running back masquerading at defensive end, recovered the ball to score his first touchdown since returning to the club. Taylor Umland hit offensive MVP Christian Davies for the two-point conversion as the Rams at least left a tough encounter with something to build on.
Pictures by Lauren Stewart