The Manchester Titans Adult Contact Season ended in the Quarter Finals of the Division 1 Playoffs, losing 35-24 to a Sandwell Steelers team that won Division 2 last year.
The Titans took the opening kickoff and despite a nice 26 yard run by WR Ryan Newton which moved the ball into the Sandwell half, they failed on 3rd Down and were forced to punt.
The Steelers moved the ball efficiently downfield in a 10 play, 75 yard drive which resulted in a 2 yard run by RB Dwain Houghton. The successful kick gave Sandwell a 7-0 lead.
Both teams had to punt on their next possession, but Manchester’s Offense finally started moving the ball consistently and a 24 yard TD catch by TE Ste Kimmins was negated by a penalty. The Titans got down to the Sandwell 8 yard line through but were forced to attempt a 30 yard field goal, which kicker Ben Nuttall pushed wide of the post, leaving the score at 7-0 to end the 1st Quarter.
The Steelers then drove 70 yards in 7 plays culminating in a 3 yard TD run and successful kick increasing their lead to 14-0. Titans QB Alan Mead then led his team 64 yards in 6 plays, through passes to WR James Newnes, TE Kimmins before hitting WR Newton down the middle on a 26 yard TD pass. Nuttall’s kick was blocked but the Titans were onboard trailing 14-6.
However Sandwell hit back with 2 more TDs on their next 2 possessions whilst the Titans failed on 4th down on one drive and then a sack of Mead forced a fumble which the Steelers recovered, meaning Sandwell went into half-time with a convincing 28-6 lead.
The 2nd Half began with a fired-up Titans defense determined to make amends for a poor second quarter – 2 rushing plays were stopped for just 4 yards and on 3rd down DE Andrew Burridge sacked the Steelers QB for a 6 yard loss forcing a punt. A promising Titans drive ended when a catch by Newton was ruled an Interception in favour of Sandwell.
But some tough defense from Titans leading tackler on the day, CB Matt Wells plus some heads-up football from Titans Safety James Dean got the ball back for the Offense. 2 tackles and a pass defended by both Wells and Dean forced a short punt which Dean picked up off the bounce and returned 7 yards to the Titans 37 yard line.
From there some tough running by RB Luke Campbell moved the ball to midfield where Mead found Newnes for a 16 yard reception on 4th & 4. 2 plays later, Campbell burst up the middle, broke a tackle and scampered 36 yards to paydirt. The 2PAT attempt failed making the score 28-12.
The Titans Defense forced a 3 and Out on the next series so Manchester took over the ball at midfield and drove to Sandwell’s 21 yard line as the 3rd quarter ended. On the first play of the 4th quarter, Mead rolled out and found Newnes who dove into the endzone making the score 28-18. The 2 point run was stopped short of the goal-line but the Titans now had the momentum they needed.
Manchester’s Big Blue Wrecking Crew again forced another punt and the Titans Offense delved into the playbook and opened up with an Option Pass from Newton to Kimmins for 23 yards. 3 plays later, Mead hit Newton with a short pass that the speedy receiver took 33 yards for the Titans 4th TD of the Day. Mead’s pass to Newnes on the extra point attempt was knocked down but Manchester had cut the lead to just one score – 28-24.
Sandwell needed a response and a good kick off return set them up at midfield and 5 plays later they were facing a 4th & 5 at Manchester’s 15 yard line. From here, a couple of missed tackles by the Titans defense gave the Steelers a 15 yard TD run and extended their lead to 35-24 with the successful extra point.
Manchester’s next possession ended when a Mead pass bounced off the fingers of Newton and fell incomplete bringing up a punt. The Titans defense forced a 3 and out and Manchester’s offense starting rolling again with a 35 yard catch by WR George Slade and a 14 yard catch by Kimmins setting up a 1st and Goal at the 5 yard line. Unfortunately for the Titans, Mead’s pass to Kimmins in the endzone was just off his fingertips and then on 4th Down the Steelers intercepted and ran out the clock to win the game.
The Titans will look back on their first season back in Division 1 with a strong feeling of building for the future, as they showed they not only belonged in the Division but are nicely placed to make a run for the Premier Division.
Loses against the unbeaten Edinburgh Wolves and Yorkshire Rams were close fought affairs whilst they recorded comprehensive victories over the Gateshead Senators, West Coast Trojans and the Rams in the first game of the season. Whilst there will be changes in personnel with some players calling it a day, the future looks bright with a strong U19 program that again qualified for the Playoffs and an U17s squad that made the playoffs in their 3rd season.
Photography by Whizzyfingers