Easter Sun Melts Exiles Juniors
Kent Exiles 0 - 11 Colchester Gladiators
The Kent Exiles Juniors dug deep to give a gutsy effort against a well-drilled Colchester Gladiators team on a hot Easter Sunday afternoon, but ultimately came away defeated in a low scoring game. Defenses dominated on both sides with flashes of offensive spark, but in the end a Gladiators field goal and late clinching touchdown sent the Exiles away from the Harwich coast with an opening day loss.
Kent started brightly in the first quarter, and after a successful pre-season outing against the Farnham Knights, the offense strung together a solid first drive with QB Ben Abbott completing passes early on to Dan Reeves and Ryan Nestor, and making gains himself on the ground. The Exiles threatened Colchester territory and looked to be edging the field position battle early on. After a punt, the Exiles D provided an early spark themselves with DE Sam Rogers making the first of several impressive plays on the day, forcing a fumble from the Colchester QB on their first series, for a big loss of yardage. As the first half progressed, both team’s defenses seemed to be taking the ascendency against their opposing offenses. For the Exiles Haydn Allen provided aggressive run support from the cornerback position, making tackles and funnelling plays to the inside where Fola Dare, Chas Mulvihill and Joe-John Elliot made several stops inside. Allen almost made an interception in Gladiators territory as the second quarter clock ticked down, and after a Gladiators punt, Kent found themselves in good field position at midfield. However one of several fumbles on the day in the Kent backfield snuffed out the opportunity and the half ended with Colchester threatening the Exiles endzone, but the visitor’s D holding firm.
However the Gladiators came up with a momentum-swinging play on the second half kick-off, with Sam Hogarth breaking through the Exiles coverage team to take the ball to the Exiles 25, Fola Dare showing great hustle to save a score. The Kent defense managed to bend but not break, but the Gladiators were able to convert a 22 yard field goal and break the deadlock.
Into the final period, and the Gladiators managed to get their running game on track and move the chains regularly. Impressive running from Hogarth ate up chunks of yardage and time and inside the final four minutes, the Gladiators found the endzone on third down on a 6 yard TD pass to Reece Youlton. Colchester added the 2-point conversion after a botched extra point snap was picked up by the holder and run into the corner of the endzone, producing the final 11-0 margin.
Kent had one last chance to get on the scoreboard, and Abbott completed a deep pass to Nestor to move into Colchester territory, but the Exiles were unable to make another first down, and the Gladiators took over and took a knee to end the game.
“I’m really proud of the effort that the team showed”, reflected head coach Paul Samartin, “we had a lot of guys who hardly came of the field today, and the defense in particular had a lot of success against the Gladiators offense, who are a strong unit. I thought Sam Rogers and Haydn Allen showed a lot of athleticism and intensity today for our defense. There is a lot we can take away from this first game and build upon. If we continue that kind of level of play on defense, and can come together a little more on offense, I think we can be a force to be reckoned with this year”.
Kent’s improvement was impressive considering losses of 32-6 and 40-8 against the Gladiators last season. Next week the Exiles look to put a first dent in the win column with a road trip to the South London Renegades. More details of the Exiles upcoming games can be found online at www.kentexiles.co.uk.
All photos courtesy of Martin Wilmott.