Austrian rivalry renewed as Dacia Vienna Vikings hold off Swarco Raiders in overtime

In the lead up to the highly anticipated 2019 Austrian Bowl rematch between the Dacia Vienna Vikings and Swarco Raiders, there was plenty of speculation about how much would separate the two national powerhouses after 18 months without a head-to-head comparison.

In the end, the answer was just two yards.

That’s how close Swarco receiver Nicholas Tagwerker came to converting a game-deciding fourth down attempt to keep his team alive in overtime before being unceremoniously bumped out of bounds by Leonhard Gerner. The almost pedestrian play ended the new-look Raiders’ hopes of a come-from-behind victory in extra time, succumbing to the Vikings 31-24.

It was a fitting conclusion to game that never lacked for competitiveness, but at times struggled to find the explosive offensive plays both sides are known for. The opposing secondaries held both quarterbacks to under 200 yards passing while forcing multiple turnovers, but it was Vienna’s prowess on the ground thanks to dual-threat pivot Eystin Salum that ultimately tipped the scales in their favor.

After running back Tobias Bonatti broke free for 43 yards on the third play from scrimmage, the Raiders were the ones to open the scoring with a 34-yard Arno Schwartz field goal. The lead would be very short-lived, as Salum got his own offense moving with a 34-yard pass to Daniel Schwam and finished the drive by going airborne for a two-yard score on the ground.

Vikings RB Florian Wegan Photo: Andreas Bischof

The Vikings again found themselves in plus-territory later in the frame thanks to a Luis Horvath interception and Salum continued to make plays. Inside the ten, he somehow spun out of the grasp of Philipp Taschler and got the pass off with AJ Wentland hanging on his back, connecting with a wide-open Raoul Hrouda for a seven-yard touchdown.

A long Raiders drive resulted in a missed 25-yard field goal attempt by Schwartz and quarterback Sean Shelton struggled to get his offense moving for much of the first half. It wasn’t until the final two minutes when a Marco Schneider punt bounced off the returner Horvath and the Raiders recovered on their opponent’s 13-yard line that the quarterback managed to cut the lead by powering in from two yards out.

After a 51-yard touchdown bomb from Salum to Mitchell Paige was called back for an illegal block, the Vikings went into the break up 14-10. Eager to extend, Salum opened the third with a 13 play, 72-yard drive culminating in a four-yard touchdown strike to Paige.

Down two scores, Shelton finally got the offence going and responded with 14 play, 75-yard drive of his own, ending with a two-yard plunge from Lukas Haslwanter. The two-point attempt was intercepted by Nikolaus Huszar but on the second play of the ensuing series, Vikings workhorse Florian Wegan dropped the hand-off and Lorenzo Deiana recovered. Five plays later, Shelton scrambled in for his second score and double-dipped on the two point conversion to take a 24-21 lead.

Behind for the first time since their opening series, Salum hit Rudolf-Fabian Frey and Daniel Schwam for big gains before moving the chains again with his feet. Stopped short on 3rd down, Alexander Rabl hit a 35-yard field goal to tie the game with just under three minutes remaining and the Vikings secondary shut down the Raiders entirely. Big-armed backup Nico Hrouda attempted to avoid overtime with some deep throws in the dying seconds but was picked off by Christoph Nitzlnader to force the extra frame.

Vikings LB Oskar Kranich #8 hauling down ball carrier Photo: Andreas Bischof

From there it seemed almost too easy for the Vikings. Salum found time on the play action boot to hit Mitchell Paige for 19 yards down near the goal line and Florian Wegan pounded in from three yards out to seize the lead. The defense allowed the Raiders no room for a rebuttal and Vienna seized the 31-24 victory as Tagwerker stepped out of bounds.

Eystin Salum finished 12 of 23 passing in the win for 180 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but was once again dangerous along the ground with 11 carries for 58 yards and a score. Florian Wegan ultimately won the war of attrition, carrying 21 times for 80 yards, while young Daniel Schwam led all receivers with three receptions for 77 yards and Mitchell Paige added six catches for 58.

The normally efficient Sean Shelton had a day to forget for the Raiders, managing two scores on the ground but going 23 of 37 passing for 173 yards and three picks. Running back Tobias Bonatti racked up  10 touches for 94 yards before leaving the game injured at the half. Marco Schneider finished with six catches for 51 yards.

Luis Horvath led a dominant Vikings secondary with eight tackles, an interception and forced fumble. Alexander Watholowitsch added eight of his own, while Sebastien Wimmer and Nikolaus Huszar also had picks. For Swarco, AJ Wentland posted 8.5 tackles, while Vincent Muller and Christoph Nitzlnader added interceptions.

With the victory, the Vikings have landed the first blow in a season series that will likely once again determine national supremacy. Both sides will have plenty of time to make adjustments before their second meeting in June, but the margins are sure to remain slim when the Raiders get their chance to even the score on home soil.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.