American football: Monarchs back in same old muddle

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England Monarchs 13 Frankfurt 36

A NEW name, a new stadium and a new-look uniform, but one thing remained the same for long-suffering fans of the England Monarchs yesterday. The team formerly known as London embarked on a disappointing start to the new NFL Europe American Football League, losing 36-13 to the Frankfurt Galaxy at the National Sports Centre, Crystal Palace.

Since winning the inaugural World Bowl in 1991, the Monarchs have failed to experience a winning season, and on the evidence of the first game of a current campaign, 1998 promises to be another bleak year.

At one stage, the Monarchs trailed by 29 points, before rallying slightly under back-up quarterback Josh LaRocca, who had replaced the ineffective Wally Richardson. Richardson, however, cannot be solely blamed for a poor display on both sides of the ball that saw the Monarchs dominated by a Galaxy team that looks to have been well-drilled under their new head coach, Dick Curl.

"It was ugly out there," said LaRocca. "We thought we were ready but we just didn't get it done today. Now it's do or die time already. We have to play better next week."

Things went wrong for the home side early, Richardson being intercepted by Greg Evans on the Monarch's first possession. The Galaxy punished the error when their quarterback, Damon Huard, threw a 49-yard touchdown to Mario Bailey, and when Huard connected with Mitchell Galloway later in the first quarter for another score, the signs were ominous.

Trailing by 15 points at the interval, the Monarchs needed a strong start to the second half. Instead the visitors confirmed their authority, putting together a 10-play, 74-yard drive which culminated in a four-yard touchdown run by Jermaine Chaney.

To compound England's misery, K D Williams then blocked a punt in the end zone and recovered it for another Galaxy score. Facing a 29-point deficit, the Monarchs finally came alive. LaRocca, allocated from the Denver Broncos, displayed poise and authority in engineering two scoring drives. He also threw two touchdowns, 11 yards to Toderick Malone and 35 yards to Reggie Jones, suggesting that he may represent the Monarchs' best hope of getting back to winning ways.

A disappointingly small crowd had seen it all before. The Monarchs, the most impressive team in last month's training camp in Atlanta, was simply out-thought and outfought. Next week they take on the other German team, the Rhein Fire, at Ashton Gate, the home of Bristol City. Another defeat, and they can probably start planning for next year.

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