Yorkshire Rams 28-14 Sheffield Predators
Written by Mark Gaze
The first Yorkshire derby of the season saw the home side come out victorious as the Yorkshire Rams sent the Predators home to Sheffield without a win for the second year running.
The Predators kicked off the 2015 season and a touchback was the first action in a game that was nervy from the first whistle with very little offence from both sides. Most of the first quarter was spent with the Rams punting the ball to their close neighbours only for them to then give the ball back by failing to make enough yards on 4th down. The Predators did start to move the ball better when a well executed screen pass led to a 1st down but they once again turned over on downs. A bit of ill discipline started to creep into their game, which gave the Rams their first 1st down of the season, albeit via two defensive offsides. This gave the Rams something to build on but it wouldn’t be until the next drive that they would find their feet; the next Predators drive ended in a punt but this time last season’s Defensive MVP, Chris Lawton, took the ball to around the opponents 25 yard line with a good 50 yard punt return. 2014 Rookie of the Year, Elliot Jackson took the ball to the 9 yard line and Fullback Charlie Gough ran it in for the first Touchdown of the season. Jackson then completed the 2 point conversion and the Rams took an 8-0 lead into the 2nd quarter.
The Rams 8 point lead wouldn’t last long though, as the Predators took advantage of a debatable pass interference call against Lawton which moved them into Rams territory. Ill discipline, this time from the Rams, meant that the Predators were well set with a 1st and Goal at the 5 yard line which they duly took advantage of. The 2PAT was unsuccessful though and this meant the Rams maintained the lead at 8-6. The teams then began trading punts again, the pick of the bunch from Rams Rookie Punter, Tom Dunford who, with the help of Jack Hill managed to pin the Predators at their own 3 yard line. The Predators, trying to get out of this tricky spot, only just avoided giving away a safety when their Running Back just escaped the endzone on 1st down. More punting ensued until a Predators drive, again starting deep inside their own territory, was backed up by a massive sack by Adam Cowley. Another punt was required but lots of Rams pressure caused the Predator’s punter to panic and, after rolling out left and then back right, he managed to kick the ball out of the endzone, only for it to be held up in the wind and be downed at their own 5 yard line. The Rams players must have thought that this was their time but it wasn’t to be and the away side again made a big stop, this time on 4th down when QB Chris Wood couldn’t quite reach out to break the plane.
Undeterred, the Rams defence did what they did on so many occasions last season and in this game and got the ball back straight away with a big 3 and out. The offence taking over near midfield again, the ball was given to Rookie Running Back, Daunté Wint-Angus who went nearly 40 yards for the TD and with Charlie Gough once again hammering in the 2 point conversion, the Rams would go into the changing rooms with a 16-6 lead.
Coming out for the second half, the Rams knew that the game wasn’t over and that the side from South Yorkshire wouldn’t take the defeat lying down but it would take another nervy few series before they would eventually score. A big pass play almost went the distance but the receiver was stopped by Rookie Lewis Carroll and when Chris Lawton broke up another certain touchdown, the Rams would have been forgiven for thinking that the ball was not getting into the endzone but on the next play one of the Predators’ receivers got free and a simple 5 yard pass and a converted 2PAT got them back in contention, 16-14.
The Predators must have been smelling blood at this point, they piled on the pressure and the Rams offence could make no sizeable gains for the rest of the 3rd quarter but thankfully for the home team, the defence also stood firm.
Going into the 4th quarter, a 2 point lead was all that the Rams had and the tension on the field and the sidelines was tangible. That was until Chris Lawton, off the back of 12 picks in 2014, came up with his first interception of the year but once again the offence stuttered and a punt was required. Tom Dunford again with the help of Jack Hill managed to down the ball on the 4 yard line (Hill had unfortunately stepped out of bounds but the Predators were still suitably pinned back). On 3rd down on their own 1 yard line, the away side decided to try and pass themselves out of trouble and, although the pass was complete, the receiver did not make the required yardage and the punt unit was once again brought onto the field. This time though, the Rams special teams weren’t going to let the Predators’ punter get away and Alex Saunders blocked the punt and DB Daniel Barker fell on the ball in the endzone to make it 22-14.
The Predators were once again picked off by Lawton on the next drive and with the Rams needing to keep the ball, the last thing they needed was to turn the ball over. Unfortunately, a botched hand off gave the ball back to the Predators and they were back in the game. But, as they had done all game, the defence stood strong and the Predators once again had to give the ball back to the leading Rams with very little time remaining. A repeat of the first half run from Daunté Wint-Angus put the Rams in the redzone and on 3rd and Goal, Chris Wood connected with Wide Receiver, Spencer Whybrow in the endzone to give the veteran his first TD in Rams colours after 6 years. The Predators, down 28-14, tried to make something happen in the remaining few minutes but when their quarterback was sacked on 3rd and long, they must have known it was over and that’s how it finished.
The Rams go 1-0 on the season and will face the East Kilbride Pirates, on Sunday (26th April) at Hamilton Rugby Club, who will be looking to bounce back from a shock defeat to the Lancashire Wolverines in their first game of the season.