Rain ruins Cowboys run

The Munich Cowboys good started was spoiled by penalties and missed chances as they fell to a 27-20 defeat against the visiting Rhein-Neckar Bandits, leaving their season record at 2-2.

With Bayern Munich's domestic cup final taking up the evening slot for sporting entertainment, the Munich Cowboys home venture against the visiting Rhein-Neckar Bandits looked an easy option for the afternoon. The incessant rain didn't help swing any undecided parties though and it made for both depleted numbers and a tricky afternoon on the football field.

With the Cowboys forced to accommodate some changes due to injury, it was clear that reducing the number of turnovers was going to be the key to winning the game. The Cowboy's defense stole the limelight from the offence early on in the game with MVP Bill Doody picking off a pass from visiting QB Marco Ehrenfried and returning it for 27 yards. Off the resulting drive, Fabien Gaertner ran in for his first of three touchdowns on a soaking wet afternoon. The drive that initially set up the Cowboys opening score was 55 yards and with it finishing successfully in the end zone, coach Craig's men looked as if they had taken all the positives from last week's away win.

With the defence putting a lacklustre visiting offence under pressure with a sack and multiple three-and-outs, the Cowboys seemed destined to double their lead when another Gaertner-led drive marched the Cowboys from the 42 to the 15. Sadly, with the end zone in touching distance, Carey threw a seemingly unnecessary ball into the corner and Danny Washington picked it off before returning it 80 yards to the 5 where a disbelieving Fabien Gaertner stopped him.

It proved to be the turning point. The Cowboys paid for their poor decision making as Washington soon ran in to tie the game. Doody returned but was penalised and when Robert Werner's punt was poorly executed, Washington was in for his second score. A clever two-point conversion made it 14-6 and from nowhere, the Cowboys were behind.

As the rain continued to hammer down, the visibly disappointed Cowboys defence dug deep, proving that it was often easier not to have the ball. Gaertner dragged his team back by clocking up consistent yardage and then running in for a 25-yard touchdown. With just over six minutes left in the half, the Cowboys had seemingly recovered from the turning point and adverse weather. The defense pushed but couldn't take advantage of the Bandits' sloppiness. Stephan Mertsching missed an easy chance to pick up a reception for the first down but made an amends on the very next play to stretch the visitors lead to seven at the break.

Gaertner was visibly tiring and with Doody just missing out on his second interception, it seemed like things were really slipping away from a determined Cowboys team. Focus appeared to be lacking as the Cowboys followed up every score of their own by allowing points for the visitors.

The Cowboys crumbled first in the third quarter as weather-induced penalties followed too quickly after one another. The Bandits threw the home team a lifeline with one of their own offences, but the Cowboys failed to capitalise and aided the visitors to their fourth TD of the afternoon.

With the Cowboys left short of offensive variety, the Bandits temporarily got Gaertner under control as the final quarter ticked over. Coach Craig's men demand a final effort from his men and they visibly responded. Ryan Newell made his presence felt in the face of a stubborn Bandits offence and Gaertner summed a monumental amount of strength to produce back-to-back first downs. Carey tried to break up the play but was given no time in the pocket. With 6 minutes left in the game, franchise-man Gaertner rushed in for his third to complete a stunning 55-yard drive and leave the Cowboys within touching distance.

Three and out and Carey was left with the dream scenario after a poor punt from the visitors. Around 3 minutes on the clock and the chance to march your team down field and into the end zone. Carey took it on himself to sneak in for the first down and get the Cowboys onto the 34. Step forward impressive new signing Garrett Andrews. Sadly though, the fairytale start didn't follow on and his fumble after the reception spelt defeat for the Cowboys. 

With the Bandits running down the clock, the Cowboys were presented with one more opportunity after an unnecessary holding penalty from the offense meant third and 15 for the visitors. With a punt and one last chance imminent, defensive lineman Patrick Roth incurred an offside call, moving the chains for the Bandits and allowing them to run out the clock.

Fabien Gaertner finished with 32 carries for 171 yards and 3 touchdowns in arguably one of his finest performances in a Cowboys jersey. The running back spoke of "chances not taken" post game and his battered and weary face depicted a man who knew that despite a good performance from himself, a win should have followed. Coach Craig knows Gaertner was a one man show on the day and as much as the weather affected that, Craig was left with no option, "based on the way our go-to players are playing. We put ourselves in a hole we couldn't get out of." Those players will have to step up next week against Stuttgart on the road before the daunting visit of the Schwaebisch Hall Unicorns on June 29th.

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