This past Sunday saw the Nighthawks travel to local rivals, the Manchester Titans, in a crunch match which will have a huge bearing on the Premiership North this season. The Titans would put the Nighthawks to the sword from the off and would hold a lead throughout the game.
Right from kick off, Manchester pinned Merseyside deep in their own 20 with a kick through the end zone for a touchback. The much vaunted Manchester defence, fresh off a shut out against perennial Prem North champions Tamworth, came out fast and forced the Nighthawks into a 3 and out, aided by a false start penalty as nerves kicked in. The Titans special teams sensed an opportunity for a quick score and took it immediately, blocking the punt out of the back of the end zone for a safety. 2-0 to the home team.
Manchester would get the ball back immediately from the kick off, and put together a methodical 8 play drive, which would see them extend their lead. Facing 3rd and goal from the 1 yard line, QB Bloomfield found WR Bamber in the end zone on a slant route to extend the Titans lead. The XP was up and good, and Manchester had raced out to a 9-0 lead.
Merseyside received the ensuing kick off and would put together a really good looking drive, moving the ball efficiently and effectively during the 12 plays. They would be forced to punt the ball from the Manchester 26 yard line as the wind blew in their faces. The ball was downed on the Manchester 6 yard line by LB Mark Houghton, and Manchester took over.
After a fumbled pitch on 1st down, Manchester were pinned back on their own 2 yard line, when Merseyside would score their first points of the day. QB Bloomfield took the snap and passed it straight to Bamber on a jet sweep, only for Bamber to be tackled in the end zone by LB Jack Langton for a safety. Manchester up 9-2 in a rare game that had already seen 2 safeties in the first quarter! Merseyside would go 3 and out quickly, as the Titans defence swarmed to the ball. A short punt after a low snap would give Manchester the ball back just inside their own half as time expired on the 1st quarter.
The Titans would waste no time in getting back on the board, as Bloomfield connected with Bamber again for another TD. Facing 1st and 10 from the Nighthawks 16, Bloomfield threw a rainbow down the Titans sideline to Bamber, who found himself wide open. The XP was good, and Manchester led 16-2.
The Nighthawks once again struggled to move the ball, and were gifted another set of downs around their own 25 yard line as the Titans were drawn offside by QB Routledge’s hard count. This would spur the Hawks on, as another methodical drive downfield, aided by Routledge’s legs, saw the Hawks deep in the Titans 5 yard line. Another offside penalty gave them a fresh set of downs, and after two runs up the middle were stuffed, RB Tshimanga would punch the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out. Eager put the kick through the uprights, and suddenly the Hawks were back in it at 16-9.
The Nighthawks defence then stepped up and turned the ball over quickly, forcing Bloomfield to scramble and throw an incompletion on 4th down. Facing a short field just inside their own half, the Nighthawks offence would enter the field looking to tie the game up. This would be shortlived though, as Routledge threw an interception across the middle of the field, which the Titans would return to the Nighthawks 33 yard line. Bloomfield would take full advantage of the turnover, as he found a wide open George Slade down the sideline, who would take the ball in for 6. The Nighthawks defence managed to block the XP, and Manchester’s lead was stretched to 22-9.
The two teams then exchanged possessions, as the Titans D stuffed the Nighthawks in their own half, and Bloomfield threw an interception to Ben Rawthore as time ticked down in the first half. This would bring the first half to a close, and the Titans led 22-9 at half time.