The Rams marked Chris Lawton’s testimonial in style with a thumping seven-touchdown win over the Gateshead Senators at John Charles Stadium.
Two touchdowns from Keimar Stuart and one apiece for fellow running backs Chris Peel and Alan Stockdale helped put the Rams in command, with wide receiver Spencer Whybrow also finding the end zone, before Taylor Umland‘s double rounded off the scoring.
After a minute’s silence to honour Cambridgeshire Cats player Charles Mack, who tragically died in training with his team last month, the opening kick-off was fielded by Lawton himself and he produced a handy return. Four plays later it was 7-0 to the black and gold as Stuart burst clear for a trademark long-range score and Jeff Quartey added the extra point.
That was the only score of a quickfire first quarter, with Gateshead’s run-heavy offence taking chunks off the clock. Despite some big first-down pick-ups, they were otherwise well marshalled with Vimbayi Mudoti producing some highlight plays and the likes of Lysander Code and Ross Hammond leading by example elsewhere in the defence.
The Rams did not have to wait too long in the second period to double their lead. Peel was brought into the game for his brute strength near the goal-line but on this occasion was able to pick a path through untouched. The third score came when quarterback Dan Haywood showed excellent poise and patience and found Whybrow, exploiting some confusion in Gateshead’s end zone coverage. Quartey converted both scores and it was 21-0 at the half.
Into the third quarter and both facets of the Rams offence were on show for the next touchdown as a long catch by Christian Davies helped set up a scoring position and Stuart powered into the end zone. Quartey kept up his perfect record with the boot, though this time he was indebted to Lil Bush‘s excellent handling of a low snap.
The only blemish on the day – other than a procession of penalties and injuries which meant the third quarter lasted more than an hour – was the Rams defence conceding their first points of the season as the Senators got into field goal range and Cameron Grant’s powerful right foot did the rest.
It proved a temporary setback, though, as Stockdale – who was memorably flipped through the air when tackled on a fake punt on Gateshead’s last visit to south Leeds – powered over in the corner and Stuart ran in the two-point conversion.
A short kick-off from James Hudson took a favourable bounce back into Rams possession and Ben Green rotated back in at quarterback to pick up his first touchdown as a Ram with a pass to Umland – who, like fellow slot receiver Mike Sison, was becoming an integral part of the offence. Stuart again added the two points.
There was still time for a final flourish as Mudoti capped a monumental performance by recovering a blocked Gateshead punt, giving Green one more chance from close range with 12 seconds left on the clock. Umland found oceans of space in the corner to bring up the Rams’ half-century, with the running clock expiring before a conversion could be attempted.
Offensive MVP: Anthony Dockray
Defensive MVP: Vimbayi Mudoti
Coaches’ MVP: Mike Sison
Ram of the Day: Tyler Broad