The Merseyside Nighthawks headed into Sunday’s game against the Manchester Titans in search of their first win of the season and it took some magic right at the end to get them over the line, after it looked like they blew a big lead late in the fourth quarter.
The game started slowly as both sides came out strong defensively before the Nighthawks drew first blood, as quarterback Ben Robinson scored the first touchdown of the game on a run up the middle after the ‘Hawks had converted on a fake punt to keep the drive alive. The Titans managed to score a touchdown of their own later in the first quarter, but with the PAT unsuccessful Merseyside held a slender 7-6 at the start of the second quarter. The game continued to be close, as a touchdown from Dom Woo for the Nighthawks was followed by another Titans touchdown, before Liam Holebrook scored a field goal at the end of the first half to give Merseyside a 17-12 advantage at half time.
Merseyside came out strong on both offence and defence in the third quarter and extended their lead through another touchdown run from Robinson before linebacker Mark Houghton recovered a Manchester fumble that allowed the ‘Hawks to score again through a Jordan Houghton touchdown catch. The defence then forced Manchester to turn the ball over on downs in the red zone and on the next series rookie cornerback Dave Sampson snagged his first ever interception. The Nighthawks looked to be taking over the game with the score 31-12 heading into the fourth quarter. As it turned out the game was far from over.
The Titans scored at the start of the fourth quarter to give themselves some hope at 31-20, but the Nighthawks responded straight away as running back Martin Murphy carried the ball into the end zone to make it 38-20. Manchester proved that their solid start to life in the Premier North has been no fluke as they tightened up defensively and scored three touchdowns without reply to take the lead for the first time in the game with 11 seconds remaining. With the score 41-38 to the Titans, Jace Cascoe returned the ball past midfield for Merseyside before stepping out of bounds with one second left on the clock. A facemask penalty on the return gave Merseyside an extra 15 yards, which gave the offence the one play to try and salvage a win for the team. Up stepped Robinson and wide receiver Alex Eager as they connected on a huge pass into the end zone, which Eager juggled several times before pulling it in, to give the Nighthawks their first victory of the season, 44-41, as time expired in one of the games of the season.
Next up for Merseyside (1-3) is another away trip next weekend to face the reigning Britball champions and currently undefeated in 2018, Tamworth Phoenix (3-0). Kick off is 2:30pm at Pack Meadow, Packington Lane, Coleshill, B46 3JE.