American football: Dragons reign as Monarchs abdicate

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The most spectacular collapse in World League history saw the London Monarchs throw away a 24-point lead to lose 37-32 against the Barcelona Dragons at Stamford Bridge yesterday.

The defeat ends the Monarchs' hopes of hosting the World Bowl next month, but the manner of it raises fundamental questions about the team's ability to win. They will never be better placed: after completely dominating the first half the Monarchs contrived a second half of grotesque ineptitude.

They gained just two yards of offense in the third quarter, the defense missed a succession of tackles, and even special teams were a mess, the ball sailing over the head of the punter, Greg Ivy, through the end zone for a Barcelona safety- encapsulating the home side's self-destruction.

Yet it had all been so different in the first half. Hobbs' five-yard run, Stan White's touchdown passes to Terrence Davies and Steve Brooks and White's two-yard run had given the Monarchs a seemingly decisive 30- 7 lead.

The warning sign flashed in the third quarter. Jon Kitna, the Dragons impressive quarterback, hit Marco Martos, who ran untouched through London's invisible secondary to score on a 96-yard play. That set the tone for the rest of the affair, Kitna relentlessly chipping away at London's increasingly fragile lead. The quarterback found Sheddrick Wilson for a 12-yard strike before completing the transformation with a pair of short yardage runs in the fourth quarter.

The result means Barcelona are the only team in the league to record three wins from their first four games, while the Monarchs' third defeat in a row seemingly condemns them to a fourth consecutive losing season.

London's head coach, Lionel Taylor, offered no excuses. "We set football back 50 years today," he said. "We stank out the second half offensively and defensively. This was very disturbing, losing the way we did. We did a poor job and the blame doesn't go to the ball players, it goes to me."

In Frankfurt on Saturday night, the Scottish Claymores ground out a tough 9-3 win over the Galaxy to keep their own World Bowl hopes alive. An absorbing, defence dominated contest was settled with 33 seconds remaining when the quarterback, Spence Fischer, threw a 46-yard scoring pass to Allen DeGraffenreid. The result ended the defending champions' two-game slump, and may also have ended the Galaxy's aspirations of staging next month's championship game.