American Football: Monarchs make winning start

London Monarchs 14 Frankfurt Galaxy 7
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The Independent Online
Bright sunshine, dancing girls and a crowd in shirtsleeves and shades, American football made a characteristically brash, full volume return yesterday when the London Monarchs entertained the Frankfurt Galaxy at Stamford Bridge. Having seen Chelsea dispose of Wimbledon in the round ball semi-final earlier in the day, Ken Bates' tenants believed the omens for a winning start were encouraging.

The Monarchs have not enjoyed the luxury of a successful campaign since 1991, the year they won the World Bowl. Attendances have dwindled since the massively hyped 40,000 gates which were a feature of that inaugural campaign. Inevitably, given the twin attractions of cup football and the marathon, yesterday's gate was 10,718, not a runaway success, but confirmation of a solid base from which to build.

Monarchs fans' have become accustomed to seeing their team struggle, so the early stages of the action will have come as little surprise. On the third play from scrimmage, the quarterback Stan White was intercepted by Frankfurt's Greg Evans. White, allocated by the New York Giants, is regarded as one of the game's most promising young talents but he made a shaky start to his World League career, completing just seven of his first 17 passes for 42 yards.

His early interception was duly punished by the Galaxy, Bobby Phillips giving the visitors a first quarter lead on a one-yard run. But while their offense struggled, London's defense and special teams were in dominant mood. The cornerback Kenny McEntyre, back in the United Kingdom for his third tour of duty, intercepted an errant pass from Frankfurt's Chad May, returning it 51 yards for a touchdown.

The stage was set for Clive Allen, the former soccer player who had played for just about every London club, to try his hand at gridiron. Allen learned at first hand that kicking an extra point is not a simple affair, his attempt sailing wide.

Meanwhile, May was having an increasingly uncomfortable afternoon as London's defensive line ran riot. May, another NFL quarterback with a promising future, was badly let down by his offensive line with Monarchs defenders pouring through at will. He was sacked eight times, three of them coming from the linebacker Rick Newbill, and the most costly coming late in the game when he was felled in his own end zone by Malcolm Showell for a Monarchs safety.

Earlier, a blocked Frankfurt punt led to London's other score in the third quarter. The ball was recovered at the Galaxy's nine-yard line, and a few plays later White claimed his first World League touchdown, a four-yard pass to the tight end Mike Titley. The 14-7 final scoreline barely reflected a second half of almost total London dominance.

"This was the worst game I've seen offensively in all the years I've been in football," said Frankfurt's veteran coach, Ernie Stautner, whose playing days began in the 1940s. "I cannot believe that a team could make so many mistakes in one game."

"It was a good win, and our defense played well," said his opposite number Lionel Taylor. "We made some mistakes on offense and we have to correct those. I must admit I was too conservative today. We need to diversify a little."

The league's other British team, the Scottish Claymores, also enjoyed a winning opening, with a hard-fought 16-3 triumph over the Amsterdam Admirals in the Netherlands on Saturday night. Touchdown runs from the running backs Jared Kaaiohelo and Ron Dickerson sealed the win.