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Solid Start to 2015 for Exiles Youth


Saturday 25th April saw the first regular season tournament for the Kent Exiles Youth, and they faced their longest regular season trip to Hertfordshire Cheetahs. The Exiles arrived, to find the hosts warming up, and they were closely followed by the London Warriors. The fourth participating team, the London Blitz, were nowhere to be seen. The Blitz arrived in dribs and drabs, but by kickoff, they did not have sufficient players to start, and so the Exiles first win of the season was by way of forfeit.

This left the Exiles youth in limbo for an hour or so, and despite drilling and practicing, this seemed to affect their concentration, because as the game against Hertfordshire started, the young Exiles started very sluggishly. Hertfordshire scored twice without reply, and the Exiles offence could not get moving, even gifting the ball back to the Cheetahs via a couple of fumbles.
As they got into the game however, the defence started to get to grips with the Herts offence, and interceptions by Gareth Norman, and a great diving pick from Theo Alexis gave the Exiles two extra opportunities, and they made them count. The Exiles ground game kicked in, and strong running from Sam Crawford kept the ball moving. The Exiles then put the ball in the hands of Johnny Ndumbe, and he sprinted the length of the field to score.
On their next possession, Ndumbe was given the ball again, with virtually the same result. This time, the extra point was added by way of an excellent throw from Joe Bennett, to wideout Andrew Bews, and rather fortuitously, the Exiles turned around at half-time 13-12 ahead.
The second period was a rather different story however, as the Exiles defence started to get on top of the Cheetahs. Good pressure from NT's Sean Lewis and Luke Boxall, and coverage from Alfie West saw the Cheetahs have difficulty moving the ball, and the Exiles further extended their lead on a good drive midway through the second half. WR James Tucker took a good catch for first down, and behind Sam Crawford again and Reece Burrowes , Joe Bennett found Conor Rumble in the endzone for the final score of the game, the Exiles coming out on top 19-12.

Next for the Exiles was a game against old rivals the London Warriors, who had also won their first two games. Again the Exiles started slowly, and the Warriors scored first through their quick, elusive running back. The Exiles hit back almost immediately however, with Conor Rumble scoring on a short pass, after great blocking from the offence. Conor Rumble was found again in the endzone for the extra point, and the Exiles led for the first and last time in the game. The Exiles defence, already depleted by injury, had difficulty stopping the Warriors on their next two possessions, and the Warriors extended their lead twice. The Exiles answered with a drive varying run with pass, culminating with a superb catch inside the five yard line by Cameron Rose. However, a combination of missed catches and good Warrior defence held the Exiles at bay, and they turned around 20-7 adrift.
If the Warriors believed the game was done however, they had another thing coming, and with the ball on the first drive of the second half, the Exiles Youth came out with purpose. Strong running again from Sam Crawford and Johnny Ndumbe saw Joe Bennett again find Conor Rumble in the endzone. The Warriors replied with a TD almost immediately, but again the Exiles hit back, strong blocking from Cameron Rose, Zia Islam, Alex Savine and Jay Vijayshankar sprung Johnny Ndumbe for a touchdown.
Holding the Warriors, the Exiles got the ball back, and an early contender for catch of the season from Andrew Bews in double coverage saw the Kent side again inside the five yard line. Again however, the advantage could not be punched in, and the Warriors made them pay with a further score. Back came the Exiles, with a lot of heart and determination, Harry Woodley just missing out on a long pass from Bennett. The Exiles would not be denied this time however, and Bennett found Cono Rumble again for the score, and for the point after as well.
The Exiles could not close the gap further however, and the Warriors held on 32-26.

Afterwards Head Coach Julius Hobbs said, " this was a good start from a largely rookie team. They did not start well, and credit should be given to Herts for the way they played, but the team showed character to come through the first match. It tells me a lot about the team that they still pulled out the win from such a position. There was no disgrace about losing the second game. In fact, we had great chances to win it, and I felt we left at least 12 points on the field. But, the Warriors are clearly a better team this year. They have kept largely the team from last season, and the fact they are another year older and experienced will mean they will be very competitive this year. If you consider we travelled without the starting and backup centre, and lost key defensive players throughout the day. I felt the team acquitted themselves well, and they should be pleased with their performance, especially in the Warriors match, where they didn't quit at all, when it would have been arguably easier to let the game go. I am very proud of the team, and the way they stuck to the task all day."

He added "It is always difficult to single players out, but Sam Crawford, and Johnny Ndumbe kept us moving all day, and Conor Rumble had a breakout tournament. Joe Bennett had a solid start to his season, and the receivers all found space, and pulled off some fantastic catches. On defence, we should a lot of skill, especially up front with Luke Boxall and Sean Lewis, and the rookies like Alfie West and Harrison Hill really stepped up when we lost more experienced players through the day. Special mention should go to Harry Woodley, playing a very unfamiliar position, he stuck with it all day, and helped us get off to a good start. Finally, I would like to thank all teams participating, especially Hertfordshire Cheetahs for being excellent hosts, and putting on a great day."


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