The Rhinos improved to 1-1 for the 2019 SBC season and ended a 1,407 day wait for a win in Irish American football’s top division.
However, the win wouldn’t come easy against a home side who had narrowly lost its opener against the Belfast Trojans.
It was the quick start of the Rhinos defence that set the visitors on their way, with the relentless D-line pressure from Stevie Cooney and Carmen Becheanu leading to a third down that saw Adam Skelly force the ball from UL QB Adrian Garvey’s hands and into the waiting arms of Nico Marrimpoey.
On its first play from scrimmage, the Rhinos offence would hit paydirt, Ethan Foster running the ball in from the 14 following a monster block by Samson Olusegun.
If anyone on the Rhinos sideline thought that would be the flow of the game, UL’s strong running game shortly dispelled that idea, fighting its way into the Rhinos 10. However, defensive stalwart and game MVP Andy Meehan would snag an interception near the goal line to keep the Rhinos ahead.
The Vikings would score on their next drive, though the Rhinos D would hold them to a field goal.
In response, the Rhinos would get a score of their own, following another Meehan INT. Strong running by Foster, Olusegun and Junior Groves – playing at running back for the first time – would allow offensive MVP Paddy Roche barrel in for a Rhinos TD that would leave last year’s IAFL-1 champions ahead at the break 14-3.
After the intermission, Groves would break off an electric 40-yard run to spark a drive that would end with Paul Hosford adding a field goal to two earlier PATs to extend the lead to 17-3.
From there, UL roared back, scoring a rushing TD and setting up a 4th quarter showdown at 17-10.
The Rhinos D was able to repel the Vikings after they’d picked off Foster on the Rhinos 30, but a fumbled Rhinos punt gave the home side a chance at the death.
Inside the two-minute warning, UL would batter at the Rhinos’ door and a deep pass by QB Liam Ryan would find a receiver at the back of the endzone with just 40 seconds remaining.
Rather than take the draw, the home side opted to go for 2, but a low snap would see the Rhinos maintain their lead. Barry Bolton would catch the attempted onside kick to seal the victory.
Next up, the Rhinos take on the Belfast Trojans at home this Sunday.
Thanks as always to our sponsors Woolshed Baa and Grill and Health Service Staffs Credit Union.