Rams go head over heels for play-offs!
The Yorkshire Rams secured play-off football as a comfortable 26-8 win over the Gateshead Senators at a sun-drenched South Leeds Stadium took us to a 7-2 record with one game of the season remaining.
Full-back Alan Stockdale ploughed in for his first Rams score in the second half, as well as providing one of the highlights of the game (pictured left) – more on that shortly.
The tone was set from the start when rookie safety Tyler Broad, who scored a touchdown on the second-half kick-off at West Coast Trojans last week, this time took the game’s opening kick-off to the house – though a block in the back late in the return meant the Rams had to settle for good field position at the 25, rather than six points.
Umland threw an end-zone interception on that drive but ran in from close range for a touchdown on the next, converted by Jonny Dudley to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.
Dudley, in his regular cornerback slot, recovered a fumble forced by Eoin Byrne to put the Rams’ offence back on the field and they continued to make yards, with the help of a fake punt as Andrew Cheeseman threw to Stockdale, who advanced down the sideline before spectacularly somersaulting over a diving hit. He stayed down, though thankfully for treatment to the knee that was hit rather than his head or neck and he was soon back in the game.
The defence continued to stand firm, though, Byrne and Adam Cowley living in the Gateshead backfield and even coverage linebacker James Hudson getting to the quarterback, and the Rams’ O were soon back in business as Umland went deep to Davies (right), Dudley again converting to make it 14-0.
Umland’s best trick was still to come, though. The American was enjoying himself on the ground as well as through the air, as in the last meeting between these sides, and when he took off down the right sideline in the second quarter he produced a snake-hipped slalom between a host of defenders (left) which ended in paydirt and had commentator Carlos Hernandez falling off his chair in excitement. Dudley this time pulled the kick left, meaning a 20-point lead at the break which could have been much more.
A premature whistle denied the Rams a strip-sack and linebacker Charlie Gough a clear run to the end zone, and after the offence stalled throughout the third quarter, Gateshead provided a wake-up call early in the fourth. A pass interference flag advanced the visitors to the one-yard line and set up a touchdown and two-point conversion for Darren Mould.
Umland and co marched downfield once more and, after seeing his acrobatics almost emulated by Cheeseman (below), Stockdale went over from close range – a deserved reward both for the hard-working full-back and for the Rams’ offensive line, whose blocking in both the run and pass game was exemplary all day.
The two-point conversion came up short but the Rams were able to begin planning for the post-season – though before that, division leaders the Edinburgh Wolves await on July 31 with the Rams seeking to turn around June’s heavy defeat and improve their play-off seeding.
Offensive MVP: Christian Davies
Defensive MVP: Adam Cowley
Rookie of the Day: Liam Austin
Ram of the Day: Taylor Umland
Photos by Alex Daniel – alexdanielphotos.co.uk