The Titans advanced to the Semi-Finals of the play-offs with a hard fought 29-12 victory over the Sandwell Steelers. The Titans 2016 campaign ended at the same stage against Sandwell but this time they were not to be denied and they move on to face Leicester next week.
The Titans scored two rapid-fire touchdowns at the end of the second quarter, while the defense shut out a quality Steelers offense in the second half to see the game out. Sandwell got off to a fast start; with the Midlands side driving down on their first drive of the game to give the visitors an early 6-0 lead.
The Titans bounced straight back with a long drive, featuring two fourth down conversions, capped off with a returning Joe Nicholson piercing through the hole for the touchdown. Sitting at 7-6, the Titans and Steelers exchanged drives before both the offenses found its feet. Sandwell retook the lead following an 11-play drive resulting in the Steelers finding the few inches in the Titans end zone left uncovered for the touchdown.
But the Titans only needed four Quarterback Sam Bloomfield lofted a rainbow down the Steelers sideline to find Titans stalwart James Newnes, for a 41-yard touchdown. Aaron Bowcott’s extra point was good once again, giving the Titans a 14-12 lead.
As has been a theme throughout the season, the Titans finished the half strongly to swing momentum in their favour heading into the break. Bloomfield found a wide-open Adam Bamber inside the two-minute warning, securing a 21-12 halftime scoreline.
The third quarter remained a defensive showdown, with both Titans and Steelers performing admirably to shut down everything either offense threw at them. Manchester was unable to capitalise on Ryan Newton’s fumble recovery as the offense struggled to prevent costly their own mistakes.
The defense prevented Sandwell from closing the gap despite the Titans turnovers. Sandwell drove inside the Titans 15 to start the fourth quarter, but Mike “Pounder” Wood burst through the line to sack Sandwell’s quarterback on a game-changing fourth down.
With time running out, Manchester’s offense finally turned the screw. Behind a rolling offensive line, Ryan Newton put the game to bed with a nine-yard touchdown. Sam Bloomfield hurdled his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion, pushing Manchester’s lead to 17 points and three scores.
As the defense secured a second half shutout, the NFC1 North Champions took a knee to see out the game and set Coach Pete Birds’ side with up a #1 vs #2 encounter with the Leicester Falcons next Sunday.