The Colchester Gladiators dropped their record to 1-5 on Sunday, after they lost to a solid Sussex Thunder side by 36-14.
In reality, the Gladiators never really threatened to make a game of it after the worst possible start, when QB Curtis Bourke threw an interception on only the third play from scrimmage, and saw it returned all the way for a touchdown and six points. The extra point was kicked and the Thunder found themselves 7-0 up without having had the ball.
It was soon 14-0 after the Gladiators could only pick up one first down, a 22 yard completion to Vic Williams, and had to punt and a good return gave the visitors excellent field position. It took Sussex just four lays to cover the 31 yards when their QB found his receiver in the end zone. Again the PAT was good and the Gladiators already had an uphill task.
The Gladiators’ offence showed signs of life on their next drive with Bourke finding first Andrew Cairns, returning from injury, for 14 yards and a first down, then Williams for 21 more, taking the ball to the Thunder 27. However a fourth down pass was incomplete and Sussex had the ball back.
Colchester’s defence stepped up as the first quarter drew to a close and good work by Mark Gilbranch and Dan Jones on third down forced a punt. Unfortunately a big sack of Bourke stopped any momentum and the teams exchanged further punts as the second quarter began.
The visitors extended their lead after a 44 yard touchdown run by their running back who was injured on the play but the lead was already looking like a winning one at 20-0 which they maintained until half time.
Sussex took the ball to start the second half and were next to score with a two point safety after they had driven to the Gladiators’ one. A fumble was recovered by the Gladiators but on first down, Eddie Collison was tackled in the end zone for the two point play, making the score 22-0.
This was soon 29-0 after the Gladiators had to kick the ball away and the Sussex QB found his tight end over the middle for a 41 yard touchdown, and the PAT completed the seven point play.
The Gladiators’ offence suddenly burst into life with Bourke finding Byron Smith and Cairns for 11 and 34 yards respectively on consecutive plays for first downs. Bourke then found Andi Xheka for a 31 yard score before finding the same player with a two point passing play to make the score 29-8.
Early in the fourth period, the Thunder added to their tally, taking eight plays and one fortuitous pass interference call to travel 53 yards, capped by a seven yard scoring throw. The PAT made the score 36-8.
The Gladiators’ passing game found its rhythm with Bourke finding Xheka and Williams for first downs before launching a long pass to Chris Jackson down the home sideline. The sure handed receiver did the rest, completing a 42 yard play for six points. The two point pass failed to keep the score at 36-14.
Neither team could convert fourth down plays on their next two drives to turn the ball over with the Thunder rather unsportingly calling time outs to try to pad the score in the two minute warning, but with no further scores, the Gladiators had been well beaten.
The Gladiators next game is the return fixture against the Solent Thrashers on Sunday 3rd July at Colchester Rugby Club, kickoff 2.30pm. Admission is again free.