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Junior Exiles battle hard in second tournament


The Kent Exiles Junior team made the trip to North London on Sat 6th June, to take on the London Warriors and the host team London Blitz, in the second southern junior tournament of the season.

The rain held off, making conditions perfect for football, and the Exiles opened with a match against the Warriors, who had earlier beaten the Blitz in the first game. Immediately the Exiles youngsters showed a large improvement, the Warriors going 4 and out on their first two possessions, however, with the Exiles also struggling to move the ball, it was the Warriors who led first through an interception return midway through the first half. The Exiles answered instantly, on the next possession, Matt Mann breaking a play open to rush almost the length of the field to score. He was found on the PAT by Mark Barry, and the Exiles led  at half-time 7-6.

The second half did not start well for the Exiles, again struggling to break free, a breakdown in the back-field led to a safety for the Warriors, and on their next possession, the Exiles gave away a fumble ten yards from their own goal-line, which was punched in. Play flowed back and forth for the rest of the half, with the Warriors still unable to move the ball effectively, until a blown coverage allowed a long gain close to the end. Again the Warriors broke the plane, and with neither side able to make further inroads, the game ended 20-7 in favour of the London Warriors.

The Exiles picked themselves up for the next game, against the hosts, who had had a break, and again defences were on top, however the Exiles did make a crucial goal-line stand in the first half. Led by Joe Mulvihill and Ryan Hackett, the defence held firm, and forced the only points of the first period when a poor snap and chase led to the Blitz QB stepping out the back of the end-zone. Again the Exiles led at the half, and it was felt the next score would be crucial. On the second play back, Matt Mann again broke free, sprinting down the touchline to reach paydirt. Playing both ways at safety, he also intercepted a pass on the next Blitz possession, but the Exiles offence could not captilise, as behind strong running by Ryan Hackett, they reached the 'no-run' zone, but could not get the vital score.

By now, tiredness was apparent, and, coupled with a power running game from the Blitz, led to a score on the two minute warning for the Blitz. This was converted, and the game was level. The Exiles forced a first down, and on fourth and long, with 1.19 to go, Mark Barry hit Matt Simms for the go-ahead score. Matt Mann was found again for the PAT, and on the final Blitz possession, Exiles debutant Tom Upton picked off the QB, allowing the Exiles to run out the clock for a deserved win 15-8.

Despite having the smallest squad, the Exiles worked hard all day, putting their talent on full view, and with their recent home tournament being given official status, they are now 2-2, and second in their conference. MVP awards went to Ryan Hackett on defence, and Matt Simms on offence, who played for all but a handful of downs. Many thanks also go to those who came to help, and the Warriors and the hosts London Blitz, who both played skilful, hard football, and helped make such a good day. 


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