The Colchester Gladiators’ unbeaten start came to an abrupt end yesterday as they lost to the
plucky Hornets from London. The visitors played an attacking style of defence and took
advantage of some key absences and injuries to the home ranks.
One defeat does not end the season but they lost starting QB Rob Wickham for the season with a
dislocated shoulder and suffered a spate of injuries, including rib injuries to offensive lineman
Tom Burridge, and wide receiver Tom Clark. With running back/wide receiver Adam Dickens
sidelined through injury and receiver Jake Wickham unavailable, the teams’ lack of depth at key
positions was already under question.
The Gladiators started the game well with Wickham under centre, after safety Fraser Lamb
intercepted the Hornets’ QB. Wickham led the team downfield, connecting with Sam Gennings
for 22 yards and with Byron Smith taking the ball to the visitors’ two. Wickham scrambled to the
sideline for a short gain but was hit out of bounds where he suffered his shoulder injury. He
bravely stayed in the game but two penalties and a sack brought up fourth and long. Nathan
Brown stepped up and slotted the 35 yard field goal to give the Gladiators a 3-0 lead.
The lead was short lived however as the Hornets returned the ensuing kickoff 71 yards for a
touchdown. The point after was blocked but the Hornets led 6-3.
Wickham could not continue so wide receiver Sam Gennings took over at QB but heavy pressure
resulted in an interception and excellent field position for London on the Colchester 25.
A fumble was recovered by the Hornets bringing up fourth and 14 and good pressure on the QB
forced him to scramble. He eluded a couple of tackles and passed the chains for a first down
before throwing an eight yard TD pass to double their lead. The extra point failed but they led 12-
3 as the second quarter began.
With the offence struggling to regroup, the Gladiators defence stepped up, forcing three
consecutive three and outs to end the half. Ian Hardy and Matt Thompson made some key stops
and QB/defensive end Curtis Bourke was proving to be a nuisance to the Hornets offensive line.
But after the Hornets punter pinned the Gladiators on their own one, running back Eddie Collison
was tackled in the end zone for a safety and the Hornets were delighted to take a 14-3 lead in to
The interval allowed the Gladiators to reshuffle, bringing Bourke in under centre with Gennings
reverting back to his receiver position. The move brought instant rewards, collecting two first
downs to enable the offence to pin the Hornets back with a punt.
An exchange of punts gave the Gladiators a great opportunity for good field position but a fumble
turned the ball over moving in to the final period. The Hornets could not take advantage but
another excellent punt forced the Gladiators to start on their own five.
With defences dominating, both teams’ punters were kept busy as time was ticking down but
Bourke led his team downfield, connecting with Martin for 33 yards and Gennings for 15, before
a punt was downed at the Hornets 17. Calum Roberts recovered a fumble to give the Gladiators a
chance but a strong defensive stand forced a field goal attempt to try to make it a one score
game. Nathan Brown’s attempt was short however but on the Hornets’ next possession, Dan
Jones stopped the London running back for no gain on third down and blocked the ensuing punt.
Inside the final two minutes, and a 21 yard pass from Bourke to Gennings set up Bourke to run in
from three yards out to narrow the score to 14-9. The two point attempt failed but set up a tense
finale with an onside kick.
Unfortunately the long shot failed and the Hornets recovered the ball and were able to run out
the clock for the upset win.
The games are coming thick and fast with a trip to preseason division favourites the Kent Exiles
on Sunday, the first of three away games in four weeks. With the Gladiators’ injury crisis
threatening to derail their season after a promising start, depth players will be asked to step up.
The Exiles thrashed their local rivals East Kent Mavericks 48-0 yesterday and will enter the game
with renewed confidence.