This home fixture had all the hallmarks of a classic local derby in which neither side had totally dominated over the years, the biggest winning score line historically only being 14 points & both teams sharing the spoils equally in the previous encounters.
Cambridge elected to receive the ball on the opening kick-off & strong Gladiator tackling left the Cats starting from their own 7 yard line. The starting front Defensive line of Liam Morgan, George Horan & Daniel Goshen held firm and forced the away side to punt on their first possession with Colchester taking over on the Cats 35 yard line. Tough Gladiators running got the ball down to the 18 yard line but Cambridge snuffed out the home team’s assault forcing a field goal attempt on 4th down which was blocked and recovered by the Cats on their 9 yard line. An offside penalty against Cambridge put them back to the 4 yard line and 2 plays later Goshen sacked the quarterback in the end zone for a safety and the first points of the day. Gladiators led 2-0.
On the kick-off, Colchester’s Sam Huxtable returned the ball 26 yards from the starburst formation to set the home team up on Cambridge’s 35 yard line again. Strong running from Craig Hudson & Joe Costanzo took the home side down to the Cats 12 yard line only for resulting penalties to push them back to the 22. On 3rd and long, Huxtable took the snap looking for an open receiver downfield, with no one open and excellent blocking from Costanzo to protect him he took off to the outside and scrambled 22 yards for the touchdown. The PAT was blocked. Glads 8-0
Again Cambridge were pinned back deep in their own half from the kick-off but a huge hit on the Cats running back for a loss from Harris Tzen and two incomplete passes forced the visiting side to punt, which was blocked and recovered giving the Gladiators Offence the ball on the opponents 20. Three plays later Huxtable again swept right into the end zone only for it to be called back for a penalty. Just two plays later Huxtable was intercepted on the 3 yard line giving the ball back to Cambridge bringing back on the home sides defence. The Cats had started to move the ball downfield when on 3rd down, Tzen intercepted the pass running back 12 yards for the score. The PAT from the boot of Andrew Cairns was good giving the Glad’s a 15-0 lead.
The resulting kick-off gave the Cats excellent field position, starting from their own 30 yard line but form tackling from James Boreham, Cairns & Tzen and an incomplete pass on 4th down gave Colchester the ball back just over the half way line. A frustrating Offensive series from the Gladiators saw a big gain from Tom Plowman and huge losses when Huxtable was sacked in the backfield and Sam Morton was stopped for a loss behind the line of scrimmage. On 3rd and long from the 32, quarterback Huxtable was flushed out of the pocket, took off down the field all the way to the 4 yard line only for time to off run out for the half during his run.
The decision was made with both sides Coach’s and the officials before the restart to have a running clock in the second half due to Cambridge’s injured personnel and subsequent lack of players.
Colchester received the ball at the start of the third quarter and started moving the ball downfield from deep in their own half but untimely penalties forced them back. When on 3rd & 20, Cairns took the ball on an excellent draw play and bulldozed through five Cambridge defenders for a 40 yard gain, subsequent big running gains gave the Gladiators the ball on the Cats 3 yard line. Cairns swept left into the end zone only for the touchdown to be called back for a holding penalty. The following play poor blocking led to a huge loss when Huxtable was sacked in the backfield leaving the Glad’s to attempt a 30 yard Field Goal which fell agonisingly short after such a promising drive.
With Cambridge starting from their own 25, the Colchester defence showed their worth by forcing an incomplete pass, a huge running loss on second down and incredibly a second interception of the day from Tzen who returned it 25 yards for another score. The PAT was again blocked leaving the score Glads 21-0
The 4th quarter started with Colchester once again kicking off to the Cats, a monster kick from Cairns and disciplined pursuit pinned the Cambridge returner inside his own 10 yard line where Jack Greenland’s hit forced the ball loose which was recovered by Tzen on the Cambridge 3 yard line. It took just one play for the Gladiators offence and Cairns to find the end zone and increase the score line. The PAT attempt was good, Glads leading 28-0.
Cambridge received the resulting kick off, returning it to their own 18 yard line. With no let up from Colchester’s defence, the Cats next series resulted in two incomplete passes, and a short gain to bring up 4th down which saw the ball snapped over the Cats quarterbacks head. With everyone pursuing the live ball bouncing around it was kicked backwards towards the end zone and collected by Horan on the 3 yard line where he stumbled over the goal line for the score. The PAT team now standing tough to allow Cairns to convert the extra point. Glads 35-0.
A dejected Cats squad received the ball again only to turn over the ball on downs, the officials signalled for the end of the game. A comprehensive victory by a record margin including a massive 20 points from the defence against Cambridge gives Colchester this year’s local derby bragging rights and moves them to a 4 & 1 record and currently the last national play-off berth.
Final score Gladiators 35-0 Cambridge Cats
With the Juniors not in action again until they take on the current British Champions the London Warriors at home, this August 3rd fixture could well be a ‘winner takes all’ game to guarantee play-off football. With so much at stake the Juniors now have several weeks to prepare for their biggest game of the season.