The Manchester Titans Adult Contact Team went to Stoke on Trent yesterday looking to avenge their shock defeat last season at the hands of the Staffordshire Surge.
In last season’s fixture, the Titans lost their first ever game to the Surge and were keen to make amends. A good return of the opening kickoff by James Newnes set the Titans on their way. 5 plays later QB Alan Mead hit WR Stephenson Ardern-Sodje with a short pass that he took 36 yards to score. The extra point was blocked but the Titans had taken an early 6-0 lead.
The Titans defense immediately started to pressure Staffs QB Richard Large, forcing 2 fumbles and deflecting a pass on their first 3 plays leading to a punt. This was returned by Ainsley Battel for 35 yards giving Manchester a first inside Surge territory. 4 plays later Mead hit WR Driss Mohktari with a 21 yard TD pass to extend the Titans lead. Ryan Newton kicked the XP for a 13-0 scoreline. On the Surge’s next offensive play, LB Rob Bainbridge intercepted Large and ran it back 20 yards to score. Another Newton kick gave the Titans a 20-0 lead. Staffordshire immediately hit back with Large lofting the ball deep for WR Ryan Adams to run under and score from 69 yards. The successful kick made the score 20-7. Manchester drove to the Surge 29 on their next series but a sack, left a difficult 4th down and long and RB Jon Gago was stopped short, giving the ball back to Staffs. 7 plays later, WR Rob Quimby caught a 4 yard TD pass and with the extra point, the Surge cut the score back to 20-14 at the end of the 1st Quarter.
The two teams exchanged punts on their next possessions, and on Manchester’s next drive Mead was sacked and fumbled for Staffordshire to recover. However Titans Safety Steve Spence intercepted Large on the next play. Manchester was unable to capitalise and were again forced to punt. Another deep pass from Large was hauled in by WR Adams and only a last gasp tackle by Titans CB Ainsley Battel prevented the touchdown. However, Large found Adams in the endzone on the next play to tie the game. Quimby’s kick gave the Surge a 21-20 lead, completing a remarkable comeback. However the Titans came straight back, with a 77 yard kick return by Philip Carson, and on the next play Mead hit Ardern-Sodje from 13 yards out and he stretched over the goal-line for the go-ahead score. Newton’s PAT making it 27-21. Staffs were unable to convert a 4th Down when they attempted a fake punt that was stopped a yard short. With only 2 seconds left in the 1st half, the Titans ran out the clock. Manchester’s defense forced a 3 and out on the next possession, and their special teams again shone – this time Ryan Newton returned the punt 60 yards to set up Mohktari, who ran 19 yards for his 2nd TD. The kick made the score 34-21.
Following the kick off, Spence made his 2nd interception of the game and the Titans behind some powerful running by Gago and RB Adim Irozuru, the Titans drove 66 yards and despite Gago having a TD called back for a penalty, Mead found Ardern-Sodje in the endzone on a 14 yard TD pass for his 3rd TD of the day. The extra point attempt failed, leaving the score 40-21. The Titans Defense allowed the Surge to drive 30 yards in 9 plays but held them short on 4th & 15th giving the ball back to the Titans Offense. A 58 yard bomb to Newnes moved the ball inside the Staffordshire 5 and 3 plays later Irozuru marked his Titans debut with a 4 yard TD run. Newton’s kick bounced of the post and wide but the Titans now had a 46-21 lead. A good return gave Staffordshire decent field position and they drove 38 yards for RB Ryan Reid to score from 1 yard out. The 2PAT attempt failed though making the scoreline 46-27 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Following a 41 yard kick return by Newnes, Manchester’s offence was facing a 4th & 12 from the Surge 22. But Mead lofted the ball deep down the right side line for Mohktari to score his 3rd touchdown of the game. A bad snap left no chance of a kick so the score remained 52-27. Staffordshire, with the more mobile Adams at QB, looked to be driving for their 5th score when they marched 69 yards down to the Titans 1 yard line, but a tackle for loss by DE Andy Burridge and a false start penalty left them facing 3rd & Goal from the 12. Titans Safety James Dean stepped in front of the pass to snuff out the danger and returned the interception 12 yards before a personal foul penalty against the Surge added another 15 yards onto the play. Behind the running of Irozuru, Gago – who broke a 27 yard run as part of his 106 yards rushing for the day and Matt Kinsey, the Titans offence drove downfield, eating up yards and precious time, before Kinsey ran in from 13 yards out. The extra point attempt was blocked with the Titans now up 58-27.
There was still enough time for one more Staffordshire drive which was finished off by BritBall legend Jon Wyse who was deemed to have made a 14 yard TD catch although possession of the ball was contentious. Burridge knocked down the 2PAT attempt to leave the score 58-33. Newnes produced another big kick return, going 56 yards before being pushed out of bounds and with just 13 seconds left on the clocked, the Titans took a knee to finish the game. Manchester’s next game is against the 2-0 Halton Spartans at Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday 17th May, where the winner will take control of the division.