The Kent Exiles opened their 2018 season with a very close loss to the Cambridgeshire Cats, losing 17-16.
In what was a tense game throughout, characterised by tough performances by both teams, there was very little to separate the two. The first quarter was scoreless, as the Exiles traded field position with the Cats via a series of punts. The Exiles’ D was able to hold the Cats, with Giles Kennedy breaking up a pass at Cornerback and Lee Morgan making it through for a five yard sack.
On offence, James Cook, starting his first game at Quarterback, completed a couple of passes to Tight End James Bertram-Smith.
The Cats started the second quarter more brightly, nearly scoring an 80 yard touchdown on a pass down the right sideline, before debutant Linebacker Miguel Pascal-Johnson sprinted downfield to make a last ditch tackle, at the Exiles’ 1 yard line. However, the Cats managed to punch the ball in for the opening touchdown. The Extra point made it 7-0.
Cook quickly found his feet and showed great composure in the face of a fierce Cats’ pass rush that harried him for large parts of the game. He was able to find AJ Crabbe on a 14 yard hook-up and threw what looked to be a spectacular TD to Sam Johnson. However, a block in the back penalty resulted in the play being brought back, albeit for a net gain of 43 yards.
Increasing pressure by the Exiles’ Running Backs Dan Exell and George Eghator eventually told, as Eghator powered across the line for a 6 yard touchdown. This was duly converted by Harry Kent, making the score 7-7.
A joint sack by Sean Jones and Phil Dewhurst, and a joint effort by Dewhurst and Lee Morgan, pushed the Cats back and kept the game tight. On Offence, the Cats harassed Cook and both defences remained on top, the score remaining 7-7 at half time.
In the 3rd quarter, both defences continued to dominate and the game remained at 7-7, going into the 4th. Dewhurst again caused problems for the Cats, as he forced a fumble, which was recovered by fellow Defensive Lineman Chris Mitchell.
In the 4th quarter, the Exiles’ kicker Harry Kent drove the ball through the posts from 40 yards for a field goal, as the Exiles pushed ahead to make the score 10-7.
This was promptly followed by an excellent throw from Cook to wideout AJ Crabbe, whom he found at the back of the end zone, making the score 16-7. Harry Kent’s extra point bounced off the post, to leave the score at 16-7.
The Cats were then able to drive the ball downfield, but were narrowly kept out of the endzone. They settled for a 22 yard Field Goal, which reduced the lead to 16-10 and made for a tense finish.
An onside kick by the Cats allowed them to recover their own kick-off, giving them a chance to push the ball down field for one final chance. That culminated in a 35 yard touchdown pass, taking the game to 16-16. The Cats made the extra point to take the game to 17-16 in their favour.
The Exiles got the ball back with a minute remaining. However, a fumble was recovered by the Cats, who were able to close the game out.
The Exiles’ next game is another road trip, this time at the East Kent Mavericks on 6th May.