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Kent Exiles Youth continue good start to season...


Saturday May 17th saw the Kent Exiles youth continue their season fixtures at Colchester Gladiators. They travelled into Essex short of quite a few of the squad, however, could still field what was hoped would be a competitive team.

The Exiles arrived to find a very well organised event, the only slight issue being the heat of the day, a factor nobody could control. The young Exiles started against the hosts, Colchester Gladiators, and very quickly hit their straps when QB Olly Gadd threaded a pass to rookie Tom Lee for the opening score. This was converted by a PAT catch from Jacques O’Dwyer.

The Exiles defence started where they left off from the previous fixtures, swarming all over the field to shut down the Colchester offence. The Exiles further extended their lead, when driving down the field behind strong rushing from Bryn Cotter, and excellent blocking from Regan and Theo Alexis, Olly Gadd again found a receiver in the end zone, this time the scorer was rookie wideout Max Chance.

The defence again got in on the scoring, when after pressure from nose tackle Luke Boxall, the Colchester QB threw an interception to Gareth Norman, who returned the ball, eluding all the Gladiators players, to score. This finished the half, with the Kent side leading 19-0.

The second half started much like the first, with the Exiles again rushing strongly, changing things up using Regan Alexis and rookie Euan Clark. They extended their lead when Bryn Cotter forced his way into the end zone, however, on the extra point try, Olly Gadd was intercepted, and it took an excellent backside pursuit tackle from Charlie Macintyre to prevent the Gladiators from scoring.

The Colchester side put a good drive together on their next possession, and they eventually found a receiver in space at the back of the end zone to open their account. This was converted by a brave diving catch from a Colchester receiver, but their score was merely a consolation. The Exiles closed out the half on defence, and again, a wayward pass was plucked from the air by Gareth Norman, and he returned his second interception of the game for a score, finishing the game 31-7 in favour of the Exiles.

Second game up for the Kent Exiles was old adversaries the London Warriors. The Warriors came out with a new defensive setup, which meant the Exiles had to work harder to move the ball. However, it was not long before Olly Gadd again found Tom Lee for the opening score on a well-directed pass. The young Exiles defence was again stout, behind great tackling from Luke Boxall, David Patterson, Tom Lee and Nathan Wilson, and it was Wilson who extended the lead, when he moved in front of a London receiver to pinch the ball, and ran it back to score. This was converted by a very good PAT catch by rookie Harry Woodley.

This finished the scoring for the first half, and the second half became a very defensive struggle, with first one side and the other struggling to move the ball. The Exiles rang the changes on offence, with carries for Conor Rumble and Regan Alexis, behind good blocking from Harry Woodley and Theo Alexis. Both teams tried to move the ball through the air, however, the Exiles secondary, including Liam Riley and Joe Lockett, stood firm. The game clincher came towards the end of the second period, when WR Russell Oriunuta took a great catch deep inside the Warriors half. On the next play, Olly Gadd found Max Chance for the final score, the Exiles running out 19-0 victors.

The third and final game in the hot sun for the Kent team was against league newcomers Essex Spartans. The Essex team, from a slow start, had acclimatised to league football, winning their second game against the Gladiators, and were obviously on a high. In this match, it quickly became very clear that both offences would struggle to move the ball, and first one drive, then another was halted. The Exiles kept with their running game however, and were rewarded when, from their five-yard line, behind some fabulous Exile blocking, Bryn Cotter broke several tackles to run the length of the field to opening the scoring. The PAT team of Harry Woodley, Charlie Macintyre, Jay Vijayshankar and Andrew Bews clicked again to allow Bews to scamper into the end zone and score.

Defences continued to dominate, but a missed play on a pass allowed an Essex player to catch the ball on halfway, and he won the footrace to pay-dirt. Essex could not convert, and the half ended in this highly entertaining game, 7-6 Exiles.

The last half of the day opened where the teams left off before the break, with a lot of defence. A combination of great line work from Luke Boxall, Tom Lee, and Jack Winstanley, and excellent coverage from Riley, Lockett, Patterson, Wilson and Norman, kept Essex at bay. It would take something outstanding, or a mistake to tick the scoreboard over, and the next touchdown, when it came, was controversial.

The Spartans, moving the ball out from deep in their own half, were tackled, and Nathan Wilson stripped the ball from the Essex player, and returned it for the touchdown. There had however, been a very early whistle in the play. On consultation, the referee told both teams that the whistle was inadvertent, and in any case, nobody from either team had stopped because of it, so the score stood. With a great defensive effort from the secondary, the Exiles stood firm, closing out the game 13-6, ending the day 3-0, and winning the tournament.

At the end, Exiles Head Coach said, ‘It was great to continue with our winning ways, especially without some key players, however it was not easy, and all of our opponents deserve our respect for the way they played. The last game was especially hard on Essex, who didn’t deserve to lose the match, but in the end, perhaps our greater experience told.’

He added, ‘All teams deserve a lot of credit for the high level of football they produced, particularly given the conditions, and also Colchester put on a very good tournament, our thanks go to them. I was very proud of the way that all of my players responded today, they really dug deep, and everybody contributed. We have now put ourselves in a very good position, but must reinforce this at our next tournament, at Essex.’


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