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Exiles Juniors fall to Gladiators

Kent Exiles Juniors 8-20 Colchester Gladiators Juniors

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After four road games to open the season the Kent Exiles Junior team were in need of a win to get their season back on track. However in their home opener in the rain at Crockenhill against the defending division champion Colchester Gladiators, despite another performance that showed flashes of the team’s capabilities, Kent dropped their third straight game to move to 1-4 and all but eliminate them from the post-season race.

However, the Exiles did start the game in the best possible way. Colchester made the mistake of not keeping the opening kickoff out of Ryan Nestor’s hands, and the Exiles’ answer to Devin Hester made the Gladiators pay, following excellent blocking to burn the Glads for an 80 yard score, his second in three games. Ben Abbott kicked the extra 2 points for Kent.

Kent’s defense then provided another spark on Colchester’s first possession – Sebastian Petitt continued his good form at cornerback with a diving interception, his second of the season. Unfortunately Kent followed this up by losing a fumble a few plays later. From then, the Gladiators started to find the wet conditions to their liking, and as was to be the case for most of the day, put the ball in the hands of their impressive running back Sam Hogarth.

The Glads ground out some long drives and took an advantage in the field position battle. The Exiles defense were able to hold them out of the endzone in the first quarter, with Joe Mulvihill and Victor Omolauje making tackles for losses. But Kent’s offense continued to misfire and were unable to establish good field position themselves, on several occasions being forced to punt from deep in their own end. Colchester chalked up two scores in the 2nd period, one on the ground and one through the air on a bootleg pass, and went into the interval with a 14-8 lead.

The second half saw Kent step things up on defense, but again struggle to move the ball on offense. Quarterback Abbott made some good gains on the ground, but Kent were unable to sustain drives, and struggled in the passing game for most of the day. Colchester put together a long, clock-eating drive inside the last few minutes of the 4th quarter when they most needed it, and on 4th down with Kent needing a stop, Hogarth put the game away, dragging tacklers with him into the endzone on a powerful 20 yard run. A missed conversion gave the game its final 20-8 margin.

Kent tried to come back in the waning seconds with Abbott finding Nestor for a couple of big gains, but time ran out on the Exiles.

“We fought hard today,” said Exiles defensive co-ordinator Phil Wood, “and managed to keep things close for most of the game. We just needed to execute a little better on offense today, and give the defense more of a rest. Colchester showed again that they are a well drilled side who carry out the fundamentals very well. We’re not far away from where we want to be, and there are a lot of positives to come out of the season so far.”

The Exiles Juniors face the Cambridgeshire Cats next, at Crockenhill on Sunday 12th June.


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