Manchester Titans 31-20 Manchester Crows
After the 2020 season was wiped out by Covid-19, the 2021 season has been altered so that all the games will be played regionally, rather than the usual National set-up.
The 3-time defending division champion Titans were excited to retake the field against their cross-town rivals, the Manchester Crows. The Titans defense held the Crows without a first down on the first possession, then drove down the length of the field before George Slade had a 4th down pass punched out of his hands and it was ruled incomplete. The Crows scored on their next possession through Phil Shanahan, the extra point making it 7-0.
On their next drive, the Titans again went the length of the field, this time with Pedro Berto making an acrobatic catch in the endzone for the touchdown. The XP was missed leaving the score at 7-6.
Slade intercepted Crows QB Tal Javed on the next series, but the Titans were stopped short of the goal-line on 4th down.
Shanahan added a 2nd TD on the Crows next possession and the extra point gave them a 14-6 lead. The Titans failed to convert on 4th down, turning the ball back to the Crows who added to their lead with a quick score with only 4 seconds to go, making the half-time score 20-6.
Both teams’ defences dominated the start of the 2nd half and it wasn’t until the Titans Tom Brook made his first career league interception that the Titans Offense started to move the ball more effectively, with QB Alan Mead finding Slade for a TD. The extra point was again missed leaving the score at 20-12.
The Titans D held the Crows without a first down on their next drive and the Titans O hurried back onto the field, driving down for another score in just 3 plays, with Berto adding his 2nd TD. Again the Titans went for 2 points and failed, leaving them down 20-18.
The Crows attempted to run the clock down but on a crucial 4th down near midfield, excellent pressure from the Titans Reece Donlan, forced a poor throw over the middle by Javed which was picked off by Slade.
Momentum was all with the Titans now, and a short pass to Rick McEwen led to the game winning score as he broke 3 tackles on the way to paydirt. Slade added the XP for the Titans first lead of the day 25-20 with less than 2 minutes remaining.
With the Crows desperately trying to get back into the game, a high pass was tipped and fell into the waiting arms of Titans Safety James Wilson, on his debut for the team, clung gleefully to ball and fell down at the halfway line.
The Titans just needed to run out the clock for an amazing come from behind victory, and when Berto sprinted down close to the endzone, Centre Jay Pitchford added the nail in the coffin with a short TD catch with no time left on the clock.
Titans take the victory 31-20 and the bragging rights for another year.
Manchester Titans 53-12 Wigan Bandits
Manchester had never lost to Wigan in League competition, but Wigan had won the last match up between the sides, late in 2019 in the final of the Pie Bowl, so the Titans had some motivation to set the record straight and they dominated this game from start to finish. After the Bandits were stopped on their first drive, the Titans efficiently moved the ball downfield culminating in a TD catch by Leigh Kerrigan. David Briscall added the 2PAT for an 8-0 lead. The Titans D again stopped Wigan short of the endzone and 2 plays later Danny Hartridge ran the length of the field only to be tackled at the 1 yard line. He caught the short pass for a TD on the next play though for a 14-0 lead.
The Bandits got onto the scoreboard on their next possession through a short pass from QB David Mooney to veteran Paul Bennett. The extra point was no good, leaving the score 14-6.
On Manchester’s next possession, the Titans scored again through Pedro Berto, with Rick McEwen adding the XP, making the score 21-6. Wigan managed another TD but the Titans Defense then stepped up again with George Slide intercepting Mooney in the endzone on the XP.
Titans QB Alan Mead then drove the Offense down the field before finding Hartridge in the endzone for his 2nd TD of the game making the score 27-12 at the half.
Manchester got the ball to start the 2nd half, and they quickly marched down the field with Berto adding his 2nd TD for a 33-12 lead. Wigan couldn’t trouble the scoreboard, so the Titans took over with Mead hitting Slade in the back corner of the endzone for a TD. Jay Pitchford’s XP made the score 40-12.
The Bandits again failed to pick up a first down and Manchester’s offense drove down the field with David Briscall strolling down the sideline for a score. After some good pressure from Ian Allonby and Tom Brook forced incompletions from Mooney, all that was left was for the Titans to score on their final possession by Kerrigan catching Mead’s 8th TD pass which meant they had scored on every drive. Pitchford added the extra point making the final score 53-12.
Manchester Titans Bee Team 40-34 Salford Scorpions
Two teams new to the league faced off in Salford, as the Titans Bee Team took on the Scorpions. QB Jonatan Pan Gago threw for 5 TDs and Warwick Heffer scored 3 TDs (2 receiving, 1 rushing) as the Titans won a high scoring game. Veteran Ben Nuttall added 2 touchdowns with Marc Balduin scoring the game-winner. Defensively Thomas Lloyd recorded a sack, whilst Daniel Lixandru announced his presence with 3 interceptions in his first game for the Titans.
Manchester Titans Bee Team 32-27 Oldham Owls
In the 2nd game of the day, the Bees took on the Oldham Owls and won another closely fought game 32-27, coming from behind in the last moments of the contest. Gago threw another 5 TDs, with Heffer adding another 3TDs and an XP. Rookie George Platt added 2 touchdowns including the last gasp winner. Balduin showed his versatility with an extra point on offense and an interception on defense as the Bees start the season 2 & 0.