The Colchester Gladiators defeated the East Kent Mavericks 22-14 to improve their record to 7-2 and set up a division title decider this Sunday against the 7-1-1 Farnham Knights. A win would complete a turn around in fortunes for the Essex side after losing their first two games of the season before rattling off seven consecutive wins to set up the winner-take-all contest.
With several key starters again absent and dressing just 27 players for the game, the Gladiators expected a tough contest and that was exactly what they received. In wet conditions, the Mavericks played above their poor record and ran the Gladiators close all the way to the final whistle.
The Kent outfit was first to trouble the scorers after the Gladiators fumbled away their initial possession on their own 36. A long pass from their QB found the hands of a receiver in the end zone for six points which was closely followed by a successful two point pass attempt which gave them an 8-0 lead.
The Colchester offence started to click behind the running of Casey Campbell, reaching the Mavericks’ nine but a fourth down play was stopped by the determined Kent defence and the ball was turned over.
Safety Joe Stickings intercepted the Mavericks QB to get the ball back and this time the Colchester “O” made no mistake, travelling the 25 yards in five plays, scoring with a six yard TD pass from QB Curtis Bourke to Chris Jackson to bring the Gladiators within two. The two point pass attempt failed to leave the Mavericks ahead 8-6.
Ian Digby picked off the Kent QB to thwart their next drive and the quarter ended with the Gladiators trailing by two points.
A promising Mavericks drive was halted when Dave Walton sacked the QB for a loss of nine yards on a fourth down play but with their offence struggling, the Gladiators’ defence came up with their third interception of the half when Alex Robinson stepped in front of a receiver and returned the ball to the Kent six.
The Colchester offence made no mistake as Bourke found Campbell with a short pass for the go-ahead score. Bourke then found Sam Huxtable for the two point conversion and the Gladiators lead 14-8.
Raul Barclay intercepted the QB for his team’s fourth pick but the offence could not convert, failing on a fourth down play on the three. However, the lead was increased on the next play as the Kent QB was tackled in his own end zone, scoring a two point safety for the Gladiators, boosting their lead to eight at 16-8 which was the half time score.
The Mavericks were first to score in the second half, on their second possession. After another turn over on downs, their QB hooked up with a receiver from 27 yards out. The two point run play was no good but the Mavs trailed by just two at 16-14.
With no further scoring in the third, the scene was set for a thrilling final period and the loyal fans, standing out in the damp conditions, were not disappointed.
After stopping the Mavs on fourth down, the Gladiators capitalised, giving themselves some breathing space, as Bourke found Jackson again for a nine yard touchdown. The two point play failed but the Gladiators were 22-14 in front.
Neither defences were in the mood to concede, knowing that the next score would be crucial and Chewy Henson sacked and stripped the ball from the Mavericks QB before recovering the fumble to thwart one drive but the game came down to one final Kent possession, into the final two minutes.
Two pass completions took the ball into Gladiator territory and a long scramble by the QB advanced it to the 18. But a final pass fell incomplete and time expired to leave the Gladiators relieved victors and able to look forward to next week’s title deciding clash. A win will see them host a playoff game on August 23rd, defeat will force them to travel.
The Gladiators’ next game is on Sunday 2nd August when the table topping Farnham Knights come to Colchester.
The program for this game is available here: http://bit.ly/GladsVsEKM15
British American Football Association: Southern Football Conference Division 1
League table: P W L T PF PA %
Farnham Knights 9 7 1 1 364 192 0.833
Colchester Gladiators 9 7 2 0 210 152 0.778
Solent Thrashers 9 6 2 1 284 135 0.722
Ouse Valley Eagles 9 6 3 0 198 171 0.667
Hertfordshire Cheetahs 9 4 5 0 141 202 0.444
Birmingham Bulls 9 3 6 0 133 152 0.333
East Kent Mavericks 9 2 7 0 123 270 0.222
Cambridgeshire Cats 9 0 9 0 60 239 0.000
Remaining fixture list:
Aug 2: v Farnham Knights
Aug 23: Playoff game; venue TBC
The Knights game will be played at Colchester Rugby Club, Mill Road, Colchester, kick off 2.30pm.
Full details can be found through the Gladiators’ website at www.colchestergladiators.com.
– By Nick Foxley (Photos C/O John Singer / Biff Crabbe)