Austria: Graz Giants hand Vienna Vikings first loss, earn home field advantage in semifinal

The Graz Giants got the win they desperately needed and they got it at the most opportune time after defeating the previously unbeaten Vienna Vikings 14-13 in the second last weekend of play in the Austrian Football League.

Vienna had beaten the Giants 35-7 earlier in the season so if ever there was a time for a measure of revenge, this was it.

With the win, Graz earned home field advantage in the AFL semifinals. The Viking had already been assured of a home field playoff berth heading into this game.

The Giants stopped the Vikings‘ first drive early on, and an interception gave them possession of the ball. Quarterback Nicolas Visser then took over marching his team from his own 43 down to the Vienna three from where he punched the ball in for the game’s first touchdown. He was a one man wrecking crew along the way rushing four times for 32 yards including the touchdown run and completing two passes.

The Vikings responded on the next possession as quarterback Niklas Hrouda led his team on a seven play, 78 yard drive capping it with a 30 yard touchdown run to close the gap to 7-6 with three minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Giants managed to block the extra point which turned out to be the deciding factor.

Graz KR Devonte Rohan Myles #1 holding off Vienna defenders Photo: © Kunzfeld & Kunzfeld

The Vienna defense then stopped Visser and the Giants early in  the second and Hrouda took over again. Starting from his own 39 he orchestrated a superb five play drive completing three straight passes to take his team down to the Graz nine. Florian Wegan battled his way down to the three on the next play and then Hrouda connected with Fabian Eder for the go ahead touchdown. This time the extra point was good and the visitors took the lead for the first time 13-7 with eight minutes left in the first half.

Visser answered moving his team from his own 40 down to the Vikings 10 yard line in eight plays. On fourth down, when Graz kicker Max Haidvogl attempted a 27 yard field goal, Vienna was called for a leaping penalty, handing the Giants a first down from the five. Visser hit Julian Kapellari for the touchdown and Haidvogl made no mistake giving the Giants the lead again, 14-13, with four minutes left until halftime.

And then, in the second half, the defenses rose up. Neither team was able to reach the red zone the entire final two quarters in nine possessions. It was an amazing display of football as two of the top offenses in the league were stymied, unable to even reach field goal range let alone the end zone.

It was Vienna’s first loss. Even though the two teams are tied atop the AFL standings with 8-1 records, the Vikings remain first by virtue of the points differential in the two games between the teams.

in the final weekend of play in the AFL, Vienna will face the Mödling Rangers while the Giants will have a tougher time of it as they face the Prague Black Panthers.

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