The Colchester Gladiators broke all kinds of records on Sunday when they travelled to Maidstone and demolished the Pumas with a ruthless performance that the hosts just could not handle.
Despite running only 33 offensive plays, the Gladiatorsâ€™ offence scored 13 touchdowns while the defence chipped in with two more along with a punt return score for good measure.
After defeating the Pumas 74-0 in July, the Gladiators were clearly favourites to record another emphatic win, but no one could have predicted the carnage seen on the field on Sunday. The inexperienced Pumas were simply outclassed and outplayed in all phases of the game.
It didnâ€™t take long for the annihilation to start. After receiving the ball to begin the game, the Pumas fumbled the first play away and James Birch recovered, just 19 yards out. After an inadvertent whistle nullified a score on the first play, QB Curtis Bourke opened the scoring with a 13 yard run. Nathan Brown kicked the extra point, his first of 14 on the day, a new Gladiators record.
After the ensuing kick off, the Pumas fumbled their second play away when Gary Shuttleworth knocked the ball loose, and Dan Jones was on hand to fall on the ball. Bourke again ran in for a score, completing the three play drive, this time from one yard out, for a quick fire 14-0 lead.
The Pumas connected on their best play of the day when their QB hooked up with a receiver for a 60 yard pass but Sky Bultitude was on hand to spare the Gladiatorsâ€™ blushes and brought the Puma down 12 yards out.
The Pumasâ€™ hopes of a surprise score were dashed though when Ben Smith picked off a pass and returned it 87 yards for the Gladiatorsâ€™ third score of the quarter.
The lead was quickly increased to 27-0 after a Puma punt was returned 33 yards to their 14. Another three play drive was completed when Bourke hooked up with Chris Jackson for a six yard touchdown but the extra point was blocked.
The first quarter scoring was completed after the Pumas were forced to punt again and Campbell broke free for a 67 yard punt return TD. The 34 points scored in the quarter were the most ever scored in a single period in Gladiators historyâ€¦temporarily.
The Pumas still could not get any respite with their offence being stifled and they dodged a bullet when a blocked punt was ordered to be retaken for a running in to the kicker penalty despite him having to pick the ball up off the floor from a bad snap and starting to run with the ball. The relief was temporary though and after a 28 yard run from Campbell, Bourke found Jackson again, this time from 28 yards out for a 41-0 lead.
Birch recovered another fumble on the Pumasâ€™ next possession and rumbled 20 yards to the Maidstone 15. Two plays later, Bourke found Anders Bengston, returning to the team after a five year absence, with a four yard scoring dart. Brownâ€™s PAT extended the score to 48-0.
It was Mark Gilbranchâ€™s turn to force a turnover when he intercepted the Maidstone QB and Bourke again linked up with Jackson with an 18 yard scoring connection. Gilbranch repeated the feat on the Pumasâ€™ next play returning it to the two, and Campbell made no mistake on the next play and the half ended with the Gladiators threatening to record a cricket score, already 61-0 up.
It only took two offensive plays to record the first score of the second half after a good kick off return, Campbell strolling in from 13 yards out for his third of the day, and after another Puma three and out, notched up his fourth, from 65 yards out.
With QB Bourke sitting out, Jackson and Campbell took over, although a fumble recovered by the Pumas offered temporary relief.for the home side. And they reached the end of the third quarter with no further scoring.
However, after a 32 yard run by Jackson, the same player notched his fourth score from 22 yards out.
Shuttleworth harassed the Puma QB into another fumble, recovered by Dave Walton for another turnover setting up Jackson for his longest scoring run of the day, from 51 yards.
The Gladiatorsâ€™ defence was as rampant as the offence and Luke Box added to the total with the second defensive score, intercepting the QB and returning the ball 45 yards for a TD, before James Martin caught a Puma pass, returning it 46 yards to the Maidstone four.
Campbell scored his fifth on the next play to bring up the century of points and Jackson his sixth from 33 yards to complete the scoring after the Pumas were stopped on downs, to complete the record breaking day.
Neither team could quite believe what had just happened after the game, but ultimately the Pumas had no answer to the Gladiatorsâ€™ superior skill and strength in all departments. Thirteen offensive touchdowns were backed up by two defensive scores, nine turnovers and excellent field position all day, and Head Coach Matt Roberts was surprisingly left a little lost for words after the game, although that didnâ€™t last long..
He said, â€œThe main thing today was to get the win, secure the 10-0 season and even more importantly come out with no new injuries. Iâ€™m pleased to say bar a couple of little niggles all targets were very much met! With a number of offensive players not available we didnâ€™t have the rotation I would have liked in the backfield, but whilst thatâ€™s the case for them, the offensive line welcomed three new players, Ash Dews and Alfie Sharman joining us from the Junior programme and Matt Bentley making a massive and immediate impact, showing the benefits of recruitment even this late in the season. There isnâ€™t much to say on the game from an â€œOâ€ point of view, with us only running 33 plays all day and six of our â€œdrivesâ€ being only one play long the Pumas clearly struggled to live with us, scoring a record 34 points in the first quarter, only to beat our own record with 35 in the fourth! Special praise needs to be reserved for Chris Jackson, who dazzled everyone with six scores, three receiving and three rushing on his way to 207 all purpose yards which he fully deserves after a regular season of such hard work and team play.
â€œDefensively we have what must be a close record breaking performance, with five interceptions, two returned for scores, including Ben Smithâ€™s amazing 87 yard return! Combine the interceptions with four recovered fumbles it meant the Pumas really struggled to find any momentum, and with 25 players getting defensive stats on the day, rotation was a big factor and Iâ€™m delighted to see so many rookies making massive contributions.
â€œOverall itâ€™s a game for the record books, but nothing more than that. Our season wonâ€™t be defined by such a one sided game but itâ€™s an important stepping stone to the post season where we hope we can take another step towards the final.â€