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Final Play Touchdown gives Exiles Thrilling Victory

Kent Exiles 24-20 Essex Spartans

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24-07-2011

Jon Miller - Game Winning TD

A final play touchdown pass from Zac Ritchie to Jon Miller gave the Exiles a thrilling victory over the Essex Spartans in a game that the large crowd who turned out to watch the Exiles take control of the BAFACL Division 2 East table will not be forgetting in a hurry!

The game started as it meant to go on, Richard Cooling making a spectacular interception of the Spartans quarterback James Woodward on the one yard line, from where Ritchie led his team 99 yards for the score, finding Miller from 11 yards out.

Missed opportunities marred the rest of the first quarter for the Exiles, first Ritchie was intercepted on the Spartans 15 yard line, and then on the next drive Rob Welling dropped Ritchies pass in the endzone, and two great chances to score were missed.

The Spartans then finally got the ball moving, Woodward hitting Jon Tottman on a long gain to the Exiles 5 yard line, from where Steven Hull ran in the touchdown, and tied the game 6 all.

Rob Welling - Touchdown

Before the half Welling made amends for his earlier mistake, taking a pass from Ritchie and splitting two defenders to find the endzone, and giving the Exiles a 12-6 lead at the break.

The third period was a defensive affair as neither team threatened the endzone, Nick Clifford, Kyle Gurney, Lee Baxter and Chris Hope all making crunching tackles to stop the Spartans progress. But as the period ended Ritchie was intercepted by Lee Millar, allowing Marc Saunders to crash in from two yards out and tie the game. Josh Trimmer sacked Woodward to stop the 2 point conversion attempt.

This bouyed the Spartans, and at the start of the 4th quarter their next posession yielded more points as Hull scampered in from 26 yards out, and crucially also converted the 2 point attempt to give the Spartans the lead 20-12.

With time running down the Exiles had to score, and they did just that, Ritchie put together a nice drive which Audley Swain finished by taking his pass in from 21 yards out, but the 2 point conversion agonisingly fell short, and the Exiles were still losing 20-18.

Lee Baxter - Key Tackles

Then, with under 4 minutes remaining, the game got crazy!

The Exiles defence had to stop the Spartans progressing and allowing them to run out the clock, and they did just that with Baxter making a great tackle on fourth down, and giving the Exiles the ball back on the Spartans 28 yard line, but just as it looked like the Exiles were going to win, Ritchie was intercepted again, and the Spartans had another chance to end the game.

On their first play Woodward took off up the middle, but as he was tackled coughed up the ball for Hope to recover and return to the Spartans 14 yard line, and the Exiles had a second chance. But three plays later the Spartans defence had held firm, and the Exiles opted to kick the field goal to try and win the game. Milller lined up for the kick, but it was blocked, and the Spartans recovered.

The Spartans ran the ball as the clock ticked down, but the Exiles defence held them back, and forced the Spartans to punt with less than a minute remaining. Hope fielded the ball, and dazzled the crowd by evading tacklers and returning the kick all the way for what everyone thought was the winning score. The crowd went wild, and the Exiles sideline erupted, but the celebrations were short lived as the referees called the play back for an illegal block, and it looked like all was lost as the Exiles only had 20 seconds remaining to move 64 yards.

Chris Hope - Big Plays

But where there is a chance there is hope, and the Exiles still believed they could do the impossible. Ritchie stepped under centre and took the snap, dropped back and looked downfield where he saw Miller open in the middle of the pitch. The ball was thrown and seconds later Miller was tackled after a 34 yard gain. The Exiles hurried to the line of scrimmage, and with just seconds left on the clock managed to get the snap off.

Ritchie again dropped back and surveyed the field, amazingly Miller again found himself open, and Ritchie fired him the pass, then in what seemed like super slow motion Miller outpaced the Spartans defence and crossed the line for the touchdown.

This time the celebrations were not to be dampened, the crowd had witnessed an incredible ending, and they showed their appreciation as the players celebrated, and the referees signalled the end of the game as time had expired during 'the play'.

Once the celebrations had quietened Exiles Head Coach Tony Bainbridge said "that was probably the best end to a game I have ever witnessed, but we have a habit of making things hard for ourselves. We had chances to put the game away early on but did not take them,

Team Celebrations

but I have to give the team credit for showing immense heart and really pulling this one out of the bag at the death".

The Exiles now face the Bedfordshire Blue Raiders next Sunday at home in Crockenhill, and a victory will be enough to secure the divisional title and a home draw in the first round of the play-offs. Full details of the game can be found at www.kentexiles.co.uk.

 

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