New England linebacker Maugaula Tuitele and his Rhein Fire teammates moved one step closer to a spot in the 2002 World Bowl with a 24-21 victory over F.C. Barcelona over the weekend.
Rhein (6-2) jumped out to a 21-point lead, and then watched the Dragons (2-6) mount a furious but futile comeback. Tuitele contributed three tackles on defense as the Fire put themselves one win from the title game. Rhein can clinch a spot with a win or a loss by the Scottish Claymores in the final two weeks of the regular season.
Week Nine presents a potential World Bowl preview as Rhein plays at Frankfurt. The Fire and Galaxy are tied for first place, both two games ahead of the Claymores and Berlin Thunder. Whoever wins the Week 9 game between Frankfurt and Rhein game clinches a berth in World Bowl X. If Rhein loses to Frankfurt, they still clinch if Berlin beats Scotland. If Frankfurt loses to Rhein, they still clinch if Scotland beats Berlin.
The Galaxy beat Amsterdam in Week Nine despite being banged. In the last two weeks Frankfurt lost starting quarterback Joe Hamilton, and among the other injuries is New England offensive lineman Patrick Downey. A starter at guard all season, Downey is on injured reserve with an elbow injury. Fellow Patriot lineman Mike Clare is still starting for the team.
Two Patriots are still hoping to help the Claymores get in to the championship. Wide receiver Scott McCready had two catches for 29 yards and defensive end Radell Lockhart had three tackles and a forced fumble, but the Claymores still lost to Berlin in Week Eight, thanks in large part to seven Claymores turnovers. The teams play again in Week Nine in a crucial game for both. For the Claymores to get in, they need to win their final two games and have Rhein loss its remaining games.