Clear blue skies made for an intense game in the Exiles first taste of the summer heat in 2019, as their opponents, the Bristol Aztecs, came into the fixture with years of premiership experience behind them.
On the opening drive of the game, former Exile youth and junior Tom Lee quickly made his presence felt, catching a pass for 11 yards on the first play from scrimmage. However, penalties on the offense hurt the Exiles, as the men in black were forced to punt.
The Aztecs looked to start fast, as the Bristol offense took the ball down inside the 20 on the ensuing drive. It was reliable veteran “Pick” Nick Mayer that looked to put an end to this, as he picked off the Bristol QB inside the 15-yard line to give the ball back to the Exiles offense. Running backs George Eghator, Dan Exell and Wes Eversley began to go to work, grinding out some tough yards against a fast and physical defense. It was defense, however, that was quickly established as the theme of the day, as the Exiles and Aztecs continued to exchange punts throughout the first half.
At the half the score remained 0-0. A physical contest with both sides desperate for their first win of the season, but it was the Exiles that had made the long journey, and it would be a long return home without the win.
The second half started much in the same way the first had ended. Defensive linemen Lee Morgan, Phil Dewhurst, James Webb, Lewis Whitcombe and Andrew Stock continued to harass the Bristol backfield, as linebackers Joe Jebb, Theo Coleman-Brown and Joe Alexis consistently stuffed the Aztec running game. However, it was the defensive backfield that dominated so convincingly. The Bristol Quarterback was intercepted 5 times on the day, with 3 going to Nick Mayer, and one each for Ian Whitehead and Lewis Whitcombe. Safeties Marlon Smith and Jay Henderson gave the Aztec receivers no room to move, whilst junior graduate Euan Johnston saw increasing game time as he continues to make an impact at the club.
In the 4th quarter, the offense took their chance. Offensive linemen Adam Pearson, Joe Edwards, Gareth Rees, Daniel Gray, John Gadbury and Sam Hollands paved the way for the Exiles, setting them up inside the Bristol 5-yard line. TE Rob Mitchell would be the one to capitalise, reeling in a 5-yard touchdown reception from QB James Cook. Harry Kent would comfortably convert the PAT, Exiles 7-0 Aztecs.
The defense had received the help they needed but wasn’t done yet. Marlon Smith recovered a fumble on the ensuing Bristol possession, with Theo Coleman-Brown chasing down the Aztec QB for a safety late in the game. Final score: Exiles 9-0 Aztecs.
The Exiles had made history, winning their first premiership game since the club’s creation in 1990. This is only the beginning, however, as the Exiles look to continue their winning ways on Sunday 19th May at home vs the London Blitz.
Offensive MVP – The Offensive Line
Defensive MVP – Nick Mayer
Special Teams MVP – Dan Symons