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Exiles Youth Head Straight Back to Britbowl!

Home Tournament Report

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Saturday 19th July saw the Exiles youth finally back at home, after nine games on the road. The equation was simple, with the tie-breaker over the London Blitz secured, it was win, and they were in.

The young Kent side faced Watford Cheetahs in their first match, and it was clear that this would be no easy task. Watford had clearly improved from the first encounter in Game 2, and with the ball first, the Exiles took some time on their first drive, steadily chewing up the field, before Jacques O'Dwyer was found by QB James Cook in the endzone. Watford moved the ball, but could not achieve a first down, and on their second possession, despite strong running from Sean Seeds and Bryn Cotter, neither could the Exiles. However, in an attempt to score quickly, Watford took to the air, and after pressure from Luke Boxall, an errant pass was picked off by Gareth Norman, who returned the pick all the way.

On their next possession, Watford struggled to move the ball on the ground, with Olly Gadd, Liam Riley, and Eoin Hunt all contributing to the defence. Again taking to the air, the Watford QB was again picked off by Norman, with the same result, a defensive touchdown for the Exiles. This time, the PAT team of Jay Vijayshankar, Andrew Bews, and Charlie Macintyre made enough space for Cook to find O'Dwyer for the extra point, and the teams turned around with the Kent side 19-0 up.

The second half started with a problem for the Exiles. The Watford offence had been struggling with the marauding Boxall, but on the second play of the half, he injured his knee, and could not continue. Having already lost linebacker Nathan Wilson for the tournament, the defence was starting to look thin. Possessions were traded by both teams, before strong running by Johnny Ndumbe and Regan Alexis allowed Sean Seeds to skip in to score. The game ended 25-0 to the Exiles.

So, one down, two to go. Norwich were the next opponents. Kent stopped Norwich on their opening drive, and then, on their first possession, Kent scored on a strong run by Johnny Ndumbe. This time the extra point was added by a great catch by Conor Rumble. The Exiles defence was shuffled, and Theo Alexis and Fraser Thomson fitted in well, both making plays, although the Norwich offence looked more dangerous as the half wore on. They were stopped initially, and on their second possession, the Exiles extended their lead with another storming run by Ndumbe, but given the ball back, the Devils ran well, and then sprung the Exiles secondary to score on a well worked pass. The Exiles hit back, this time moving on the ground behind great blocking by Nathan Farmer and Harry Woodley, and Cook again found O'Dwyer in the endzone. This ended the half 19-6 Exiles.

This proved to be the closest the Devils got, as on the first possession of the second half, Cook found wideout Russell Oriunuta who had beautifully worked some space, and he took a great catch and sprinted to score. The Devils were stopped on their next possession, after the Exiles defence had gotten to grips with their impressive run game, and on the next Exiles drive, after good running again from Regan Alexis, helped by blocking from debutant Jack Galea, Cook found the safe hands of Nathan Farmer for a TD. This was added to by a great PAT catch from Andrew Bews. Ringing the changes on defence, Norwich had the final say with a passing TD of their own, but the Exiles ran out 32-12 victors.

The last regular season game of 2014 saw the young Exiles face Colchester Gladiators, always a hotly contested affair. Despite being short of numbers, the Gladiators started well, gaining a first down behind a strong running game. They were stopped before scoring, with the Exiles again having to rearrange the defence, after Liam Riley was ruled out towards the end of the previous game. Jack Winstanley and Bryn Cotter shared nose tackle duties, and with Olly Gadd, Gareth Norman, Tom Lee and Eoin Hunt behind them, they formed an effective unit. When they first had the ball, the Exiles wasted no time in scoring, strong blocking springing Sean Seeds to sprint away and score. After Colchester failed to move the ball effectively on their next possession, the Exiles repeated the feat, Seeds again out-running the Gladiators defence to score, the PAT converted on a Cook pass to O'Dwyer. Colchester had lost another player by this time, and this severely limited their offensive options. They plugged away, but could not move the ball, and on their next possession, another TD run, this time from Ndumbe, effectively sealed the game. This gave Kent a half-time lead 20-0. Colchester unfortunately could no longer continue, and this ended the game, resulting in the Exiles retaining their Divisional title as South East Champions, sending them straight to the National Finals at Britbowl in September, and ending the regular season with an 11-1 record.

Head Coach Julius Hobbs paid tribute to his side, "This title is completely deserved by the players and my coaching colleagues. They have worked so hard, and have been so professional all season long. I believe we have, marginally, been the best team in the division this season, and to have retained our title and qualified straight to Britbowl for two seasons running is a fantastic achievement".

He added, "Don't forget, we lost 17 players from last year's squad, so the vast majority of the players representing the club at Youth this season are rookies. Along with this, we are a very young team, and this bodes well for the future. It is an incredible achievement, that we are only team in the Exiles history to retain a divisional title."

He went on, "I would like to thank all of the players, coaches and supporters of our opponents today, they contributed to a great day of football, and I would also like to thank all of the other teams in our division for a hard-fought season. Unusually, we had a 12 game season, no forfeits at all. Everyone stood their ground, and a special mention for Colchester who gave the final game a go, despite being very short of numbers."

He finished, "We have a new season to prepare for, the post-season. We have to assess, and focus on the task ahead. I believe we are in our rightful place at the moment as one of the country's best teams, and I believe that we have the ability and character to beat anybody put in front of us. I hope the players have had fun this season so far, and Britbowl will be a lot of fun as well. We have the ability to go and win it all, but we must not be complacent, because the other seven teams will have that ability as well. But, why not us? I would like to thank the players and coaches for all of their hard work, commitment, enthusiasm and belief this season, I am so proud of everybody involved with this team, as we stride on confidently to the National Finals, on to Britbowl."


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