Pirates turn tide on Titans
June 5th, 2019
East Kilbride Pirates 24 – 7 Manchester Titans
A famous son of Manchester once wrote ‘don’t look back in anger’ – and hopefully the Titans were not doing so on the way down the M6 last Sunday afternoon. This top of the table clash between two unbeaten teams wasn’t exactly a classic, but it was played in a good spirit with both defenses taking on the starring roles.
EKP played the Titans twice last year. Once in regular season, when they were well beaten, and then in the Britbowl semi-final – a fantastic game that went to overtime with the Manchester side getting the decisive, sudden-death score. So it could be said that the Titans were the Pirates’ nemesis going into this game.
It certainly looked that way after only the 3rd play of the Titan’s opening drive, as the same standout duo, QB Ben Miles and receiver Max Gracie-Ainscough – who connected for 3 TDs in the semi-final – did the damage again. Miles to Gracie-Ainscough on a slant route, who then broke a tackle and went on to run 65 yards downfield to the EKP endzone. The receiver then turned kicker and slotted home the PAT. EKP 0 – 7 Titans.
On the next possession the Pirates went to their ground game and pounded out the yards all the way down to the Titan’s 2 yard line. Unfortunately the hard working backs just failed to punch in for the score as the 1st quarter ended.
The 2nd quarter was again all about the defensive clout of both teams, with each D-line standing strong. The Titan’s linemen have the moniker of the ‘big blue wrecking crew’ – but there was no way to demolish the strong foundation of East Kilbride’s ‘red brick wall’ installed by DC Nicky Smith.
After another stalled drive, a well-placed Pirates punt and some quick thinking by Christian Rubuga to stop the ball from rolling into the Titan’s endzone on the 1 yard line, put pressure on the Manchester side on their next possession. EKP’s defense forced a short punt and set up nice field position for their team’s next drive.
The Pirates then took to the air. Two good gains from QB Scott McKigen to receiver Michael Paton, set up an 8 yard TD pass to Rubuga. Rory Hutton ran in the 2PAT, taking the Pirates to an 8-7 lead.
Three plays later and EKP had the ball back, thanks to a fumble recovery by Ben Hewitt. From there they wasted no time and running back Hutton swept in for both the TD and 2PAT. EKP 16 – 7 Titans.
There was no more scoring in the half thanks to an interception for cornerback Angus McCorkindale and a sack for D-lineman Jonathon Letham, ensuring the Pirate’s half-time cherry-aid would taste all the sweeter.
It was rookie Letham that went straight back into action after the re-start, forcing a fumble which team mate Duncan Doherty secured. However nothing resulted from the possession and again it was the defences of both teams on top, with neither showing any weakness throughout the entire 3rd quarter, leaving the score unchanged.
At the start of the 4th, the EKP offense, who had moved the ball effectively throughout the game, managed to grind down to the Titan’s 7 yard line, but credit due to the hard work of Manchester’s defensive line who again stopped the Pirates breaking through for the score and gave the ball back to QB Miles. Although he maybe wasn’t so grateful to receive it. Just as he stepped back into his endzone to pass – there was the towering figure of Pirate Jonathon Letham who sacked him for a safety and stretched the lead to 18-7.
After receiving the resulting drop kick from the safety, a few plays later, Pirates QB McKigen does what he does best – find receiver Michael Paton for a 4th down TD pass. Incredible stuff and 24-7 to EKP. From there the match petered out, again with the defenses standing firm.
So the Pirates put some demons to rest and gained revenge for last year’s defeats with a defensive masterclass that will ‘live forever’ in the hearts of the large home support present to see it. That’s now 4-0 for the season, but it’s way too early for any ‘champagne supernova’ with a tricky visit to the Wildcats next to come on 16th June, ultimately followed by the return fixture for this encounter down in Manchester on 23rd June.
Report by Kerr Girvan
Photos courtesy Duncolm Photography
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