Claymores triumph is fitting finale

American Football

The World League season ended on a successful note for the Scottish Claymores last night, with a dramatic 32-27 victory over the defending champions, the Frankfurt Galaxy. The victory gives the Claymores possession of the World Bowl trophy, but of far greater significance was the attendance of almost 39,000, who enjoyed an emotional contest in which both teams gave their all.

The crowd far exceeded even the most optimistic expectations of World League executives, who had fretted about the prospect of wide open spaces at Murrayfield. Instead, they had to open up new sections of seating to meet the additional interest.

The Claymores averaged 13,398 for their five home games this season, a 50 per cent increase on last year's disappointing inaugural campaign. The Galaxy continued to lead the way with average crowds of more than 33,000, while the London Monarchs maintained their rehabilitation with gates of 12,564, up from a 1995 average of 10,000.

Overall, attendances rose by 18 per cent, and with satisfactory television ratings in key European markets, the League's president, Oliver Luck, has already announced the return of operations next year, with the addition of two new franchises planned for 1998.

"We're hoping to make similar strides as well next year," he said. "With more players from the National Football League promised for 1997, things should continue to improve."

The action on the field began dramatically, Mario Bailey fumbling the opening kick-off and Markus Thomas returning it 24 yards to put the Claymores ahead with just 11 seconds gone.

However, the Galaxy responded. Jay Kearney scored on a reverse, and the quarterback Steve Pelluer threw a two-yard touchdown to Bailey to put the Germans ahead. Scotland then lost their most productive player, Sean LaChapelle, who limped out of the game with a groin strain, but Yo Murphy filled the void with a game-winning contribution. Murphy - real name Llewellyn - pulled in seven catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns, all World Bowl records.

The Galaxy reduced the deficit to five points, but thanks to Murphy and the quarterback Jim Ballard, the Claymores had done enough to complete a remarkable transformation. The worst team in the league in 1995, they will return next year as defending champions.

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