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Exiles Respond in 4th Quarter Comeback

Essex Spartans 18-18 Kent Exiles

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Chris Hope - 2 Interceptions

On a breezy day in Essex, the Exiles came from behind to tie the game in the 4th Quarter, although many watching fans thought they were unlucky to not come away with victory.

The Exiles started where they left off last time out, by taking the opening kick-off and driving downfield behind the running of Wesley Eversley, who converted the drive with a 2 yard dive for the touchdown, and an early 6-0 lead.

But again like last time out the Exiles showed a terrible lapse after scoring, and allowed the Spartans #29 to return the kick-off 60 yards for the touchdown, and then #44 to crash in for the two point conversion, and the Spartans now led 8-6.

Chris Hope returned the Spartans kick-off 50 yards, and it looked like the Exiles would score again, but a series of penalties forced them out of the red-zone, and the chance went begging.

The Exiles defence, led by Adam Pearson and Gareth Rees, were holding the Spartans at bay despite giving up a few short gains, and then at the end of the half Hope once again gave the offence a chance to score by intercepting the Spartans quarterback and returning the ball 59 yards to the 14 yard line, but on 4th down the Exiles David Ndede fumbled the ball back to the Spartans, and another chance had gone.

Gavin Cooper - Fumble Recovery
The second half again started well, the Exiles forcing the Spartans returner to fumble the kick-off return, for Simon Mackerill to come up with the loose ball, but the Essex defence had adjusted well at the half, and snuffed out the drive quickly. The Spartans then started to drive themselves, and quickly found themselves in scoring range, but Hope once again stepped up and made his second interception on the one yard line to hand the ball back to the Exiles offence.

It was at this point the wheels came off the Exiles a little, as Lawrence Reid chased quarterback Zac Ritchie down from behind to record a safety, and 2 points to the Spartans, who now led 10-6. The Exiles then had to kick the ball back to Essex, and they drove straight downfield and scored again on a 2 yard run by Marc Saunders, who then also converted the two point conversion, and just like that the Exiles were 18-6 down.

Audley Swain - 2 TD's

The rest of the quarter saw stupid mistakes and penalties cost the Exiles any chance of scoring, but the defence tightened and held the Spartans as well. It was then time for the game to turn once again as the 4th quarter started.

The Exiles took the ball at half way following a Gavin Cooper fumble recovery, and Ritchie immediately found Audley Swain down the sideline for a 49 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion was no good, but the Exiles were back within one score at 18-12, but more importantly were back believing in themselves.

Tackles from Kevin Newton, Josh Trimmer and Hope gave the Exiles the ball back, and another drive started. Ritchie connected with Rob Welling and Jon Miller before Swain bagged his second touchdown, this time from 3 yards out. Frustratingly the 2 point conversion was no good again, and with only 3 minutes remaining it was tied at 18 all.

The Exiles defence was now swarming all over the Spartans, and stopping any running game, so the Spartans took to the air, but following 2 incomplete passes they were forced to punt. The Spartans punter shanked the ball high into the air, and it landed on his own 13 yard line.

Now with under a minute left the Exiles had a chance, Ndede softened the defence with a good gain up the middle, but then 2 incomplete passes bought up 4th down, Ritchie looked to the corner of the endzone where Yazid Garba hauled in the pass. The Exiles celebrations were short lived though as the officials called the pass incomplete, saying Garba had been out of bounds when he landed.

With no time left, the game ended tied at 18 all, and both sides know the return match will be a bruising encounter.

Following the game Exiles Head Coach Tony Bainbridge was contemplative, "we had our chances but didn't take them, whereas the Spartans adjusted well and made some big plays. We showed heart to come back to tie, but ultimately we're disappointed not to win. We'll learn from this though, and it will make us stronger as the season progresses".

The Exiles now face the Milton Keynes Pathfinders next weekend, full details can be found by visiting


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