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American football: Claymores' season of misery continues

THE Scottish Claymores' miserable season continued when they went down to the Rhein Fire in Dusseldorf on Saturday night. The visitors gave everything, seemingly rescuing a hopeless situation, only to see the Fire claim a 17-10 victory when their quarterback, Mike Quinn, threw a 17-yard touchdown to Dialleo Burks with less than eight minutes remaining

Unbeaten this season, the German franchise remains on course for a place in next month's World Bowl. In contrast, the Claymores have won just once in six games, their cause fatally undermined by a succession of injuries to key performers. On Saturday they fielded eight players who had spent the last few days battling a stomach virus: They played to the point of exhaustion only to fade away in the latter stages.

"I can't say enough about the quality and character of this football team," said the Scotland head coach, Jim Criner. "Despite the situation they have found themselves, they have never failed to give a good account of themselves, and they deserve better."

There was little evidence of Scottish passion in a first half dominated by the home side. The Fire opened the scoring through Manfred Burgsmuller's 23-yard field goal, extending their lead when Quinn connected with the tight end Harold Bishop.

Outplayed on offence and defence, Scotland responded when Cedric Samuel intercepted Quinn and the ensuing drive culminated in a 27-yard field goal from the converted Scottish rugby player, Gary Parker.

The half-time statistics, however, made grim reading. Inspired by Quinn, the Fire accumulated 164 yards of offence compared to the Claymores' paltry 17. The Scotland quarterback, Mark Grieb, had endured a particularly wretched evening but in the second half, Grieb masterminded an impressive 15-play drive which spanned nine minutes, ending when Scott Couper pulled in an 11-yard touchdown catch to level the scores.

An unlikely victory seemed possible but the Fire showed impressive determination and, as the Claymores began to tire, Quinn ruthlessly exploited their fatigue. The touchdown to Burks was a shattering blow, the drained expressions on the Claymores' players faces encapsulating the trauma of a campaign which had promised so much, yet yielded so little.