Eurobowl IV

Manchester Spartans 34-22 Legnano Frogs

28th July 1990

Britain's Manchester Spartans were crowned Kings of Europe here on Saturday after beating Legnano Frogs 34-22 to win Eurobowl IV.

The victory completes an amazing year of Euroball domination for us Brits - and for Spartans head coach Terry Smith.

It was Smith who led the British Lions to a shock European Championship win in Hamburg last year. And it was Smith who saw his side lift the Hugo Lucarelli trophy to become Britain's first ever Europeab club champs.

"It's been a great time for me, but the players must take all the credit," he said. " They played with real heart and I'm just so proud of every one of them."

But Smith's brave boys almost didn't make it to the final at all, with only a last gasp stand securing a heart pounding 35-33 semi-final win over Berlin Adler in the semi.

And that win came without the inspirational talents of receiver/safety Smith who staved off his dreams of playing to stay on the sideline in accordance with the tournament's two-Yank rule.

But QB Hazen Choates and unblockable defensive linemen Roy Harris had it all in hand as the Spartans overcame early jitters.

American QB Matthew Stevens fired scoring strikes of 28 and 35 yards to Scott Whitehouse and Davide Da Pozzo as the Italians oozed confidence in the first quarter.

"Those early scores worried me, because they showed how much fresher the Italians were," admitted Smith. "They had had about five weeks off before the tournament, whereas we were coming off the Glasgow semi-final".

The early gloom was lifted by ex-Olympian Leroy Innes' 47-yard catch from game MVP Hazen Choates to make it 14-7 to the Frogs after a quarter of action. But from there on, the ball-control offense which has taken the Spartans through 1990 undefeated and into their second straight NDMA title tilt took control.

Clifton Mitchell confirmed his return from a long injury layoff with ankle problems by crashing over from the Legnano six to tie the game at 14. After gambling on a fourth-and-eight with 90 seconds left in the half, the ever-mobile Choates weaved his magic spell over the bemused Italians to score from five yards out.

Manchester's ground game continued to eat up the yardage after the turn, steering the Brits into a commanding 20-point lead in the final quarter.

Last year's Bud Bowl MVP Paul Bailey scored the first of his two TD's from the seven to boost the lead to 28-14.

And though the Spartans were foiled on a fourth-and-goal from the six at the end of the third period, the muscle-packed maestro repeated his feat in the fourth, following his line over from the two to take the Spartan's advantage into the realm of the unbeatable at 35-14.

Frog's US rusher Scott Whitehouse shed former Atlanta Falcon Harris' skydarkening attentions for enough to bolt eight yards to paydirt. Giovanni Principi caught Stevens two-pointer, but the British contingent - about half of the disappointing 300 crowd, was already wild with celebration.

And BAFA chairman Lance Cone shared in their delight.

"It's a marvellous day for British football," he said. " I was sick of Britain being seen as a nation with no organisation, and now we have arrived. There's no doubt we dominate Europe. The fact that we have organisation of unity in BAFA makes it easier for teams."

The weary Spartans, who arrived back home Tuesday, went straight into practice to prepare for Saturday's Coke Bowl clash with Northants.

And they know that only a victory at Crystal Palace will allow them to defend the crown they won with such honour here in Rimini.

Eurobowl Statistics

MANCHESTER - Passing - Choates 19-10-199-1-0. Receiving - Brown 5-91, Bailey 3-55, Innes 2-53. Rushing - Bailey 19-111, Choates 17-109, Mitchell 12-30

LEGNANO - Passing - Stevens 45-23-268-2-1. Receiving - Orsi 6-64, Whitehouse 6-45, Principi 4-47, Barbotti 3-29, Schirillo 2-35, Da Pozzo 1-35, Senati 1-13. Rushing - Whitehouse 22-124, Stevens 4-13, Schirillo 1-2

by Frank Leadon
First Down Issue 217