Merseyside Nighthawks @ Manchester Titans 17/07/2011

Despite leading 16-7 at half-time, the Titans fell to a disappointing 35 – 22 loss in the heavy rain at Aldwinians on Sunday.

The Titans received the opening kickoff and produced one of their best drives of the season, 6 first downs, 15 plays and 71 yards and taking about 10 minutes, with a mixture of rushing and passing. The drive culminated in RB Dave Barnett’s 2 yard run for a touchdown. Chris Heap caught the 2 point conversion to make the score 8-0.

Merseyside produced a good return to set themselves up with excellent field position. They drove to Manchester’s 3 yard line but the Titans Defense stiffened to deny them any points, thanks a sack by DE Andy Burridge and some great gang-tackling by LBs Rob Bainbridge, Matt McCormack & Michael Smith to deny the runner on 4th down.

Manchester’s next drive seemed to have stalled when an 8 yard reception by TE Ste Kimmins left the Titans with a punting situation on 4th & 2 from their own 11 yard line. But Punter Will Kinghorn kept the ball and ran 12 yards for a Titans First Down. With the Titan’s driving for another score, QB Alan Mead attempted to throw deep to WR Adam Simms who had gotten behind the Nighthawks secondary but in the wet conditions the ball fell short and was intercepted by former Titan, Colin Watkinson.

Merseyside immediately captialised with a 65 yard drive for their first score of the game. The kicked extra point made the score 8-7.

But a 46 yard kick return by Simms put the ball on the Nighthawks 32 yard line. After a couple of Nick Copley runs and completions to Simms and Rik Lowthion, Mead hit Simms with a 9 yard TD pass to extend the Titans lead with Mead running in the 2 point conversion himself.

Merseyside attempted to strike back with little time left in the half. But a Michael Smith sack of 15 yards helped stop a promising drive leaving the Half-Time score 16-7 to Manchester.

The 3rd quarter was a disaster for the Titans – the Nighthawks broke a long run on the 2nd play from scrimmage to bring the scores within three – 16-13. The Titans next 4 possessions ended in punts or turnovers whilst Merseyside took advantage with 3 further touchdowns.

The 4th Quarter opened with the Nighthawks leading 35-16 but the Titans were driving with good running by RBs Ross Profit, Barnett & Copley. But when Barnett was stopped on 4th & 1 it was up to the Titans Defense again and they responded by forcing a fumble that rookie DL Gregory Ali recovered.

After a 21 yard Copley run moved the ball to mid-field, 3 straight incomplete passes gave the ball back to the Nighthawks but once again the Titans defense forced a fumble – this time recovered by LB Andy Mackay and returned to the Merseyside 14 yard line. On the next play Lowthion hit Kimmins with a 14 yard TD pass. WR Matt Barton couldn’t hang onto the wet ball on the 2PAT conversion leaving the score 35-22.

Manchester’s attempted onside kick was recovered by Merseyside who ran out the clock, leaving Manchester frustrated with their 2nd half performance, but pleased with a good defensive effort holding Merseyside to -23 yards passing and forcing 3 turnovers.

The Titans now have to travel to pre-season division favourites East Kilbride Pirates on Sunday 24th July.