Austria: Vienna Vikings edge defending champion Danube Dragons in thriller

The Vienna Vikings got a measure of revenge for losing the 2023 Austrian Football League title game to the Danube Dragons after handing them a 14-9 defeat this past weekend.

Danube had beaten the Vikings 14-13 to capture the 2023 AFL title.

Vikings quarterback Nico Hrouda threw for 177 yards and a touchdown against one interception while running back Florian Wegan rushed for 93 yards and the other touchdown to pace Vienna. Wide receiver Fabian Eder hauled in six passes for a whopping 131 yards. The Vienna defense held the Dragons to 133 yards of total offense including just 31 yards rushing.

Danube quarterback Alex Thury threw for 102 yards while running back Steve McShane managed only 18 yards on the ground although he scored the game’s first touchdown.

Photo: @photographyjanoch

The Dragons got the game’s first big break however, as defensive back Jan Gebhardt picked off Hrouda at the Vienna 30 yard line and returned it all the way down to the three. McShane punched the ball in on the very next play and with three and a half minutes to go in the first period, the Dragons took a 7-0 lead.

Hrouda responded, marching his team on a 12 play, 70 yard drive capping it with a five yard touchdown pass to Maximillion Andre Fine to narrow the lead to 7-6. However, the Dragons blocked the extra point attempt and in the melee that ensued Danube’s Paul Schachner scooped up the ball and returned it all the way for a two-point safety, increasing the lead to 9-6 for the Dragons going into the break.

Both defenses rose up in the third quarter and with Danube still holding a 9-6 lead early in the fourth the offenses got sloppy. First, after reaching Vienna’s one yard line, the Dragons offense was hit by back to back penalties pushing them back to the 25. Then McShane inexplicably lost control of the ball just before crossing the goalline. The drama didn’t end there though as on the very next possession, Hrouda fumbled the ball away on his own five yard line. Still, the Dragons could not capitalize as Thury threw an incomplete pass on a fourth and 16 from Danube’s 16 yard line.

Danube RB Steve McShane lost control of the ball. Photo: @photographyjanoch

That left it up to Hrouda and this time he did not make a mistake orchestrating a six play, 84 yard drive, capping it with a handoff to Wegan who carried the ball into the end zone from 10 yards out for a touchdown making the score 12-9. Hrouda connected with Eder for the two point conversion.

The Dragons offense stalled in their own end and Vienna ran out the clock before celebrating the win.

With the victory, Vienna sit atop the AFL standings with a 3-0 record while the Dragons slip to 1-1.

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