American football: Warner inspires Admirals to leave Monarchs all at sea

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By Nick Halling

THE England Monarchs played with a pride, passion and flair that has been absent for much of their season, but it was still insufficient for them to overcome the Amsterdam Admirals in the Netherlands on Saturday night.

Despite leading by 11 points with less than nine minutes remaining, the Monarchs were unable to halt a determined Amsterdam fightback. Inspired by their quarterback Curt Warner, who was allocated to the Admirals by the NFL's St Louis Rams delivered touchdown passes to Juan Daniels and Jason Shelley to steer his side to a dramatic 25-24 triumph.

"They hung in there and we didn't," said the Monarchs head coach, Lionel Taylor. "The best team won because Amsterdam played until the end, but this is a tough loss for everybody. We could have won by dropping less passes and cutting out the mistakes. We did some good things, but didn't stop them when we had to."

The defeat, England's fourth in five matches, means that hopes of qualifying for next month's World Bowl now hang by a thread, and the gaunt expressions on the players' faces told the story: they had given everything yet come away with nothing.

It had all started so brightly. Led by their quarterback, Josh LaRocca, the Monarchs surprised their opponents by the variety of their attack, and the appearance at running back of the veteran Londoner, Victor Muhammad, who had barely played in the last two seasons. The surprise factor enabled the visitors to build an early 10-point lead on Rob Hart's field goal and LaRocca's touchdown pass to Malone.

Amsterdam responded through Warner's 10-yard pass to Joe Douglass, but when LaRocca fired a 74-yard strike to the impressive Reggie Jones, and then Tyrone Edwards scored on a 57-yard run, it seemed to be England's night.

The Admirals had other ideas, Warner's courage under fire and the driving leadership of their coach, Al Luginbill, ensuring victory by the narrowest of margins. The only consolation for the shattered Monarchs is that they have an early chance for revenge: the two teams meet again at Crystal Palace on Sunday.