The Colchester Gladiators kicked off their 2015 season with a long trip to Southampton to
take on the Solent Thrashers, and travelled home after a heavy defeat that was littered with
mistakes and missed tackles. Head Coach Neil O’Hare and his coaches will have much
work to do to turn the performance level around before the next fixture, a trip to Aldershot to
take on former European champions, the Farnham Knights.
The game started promisingly for the visitors when, on Solent’s first possession, linebacker
Mark Gilbranch stepped in front of a receiver, and intercepted the ball, returning it to the
However, this was short lived and Colchester QB Curtis Bourke returned the favour, the
pick being returned all the way to the Gladiators’ 32., and it took the Thrashers just three
plays to open the scoring when their QB brushed off a couple of tackles and strolled in for
six points. The extra point was good and the Thrashers had an early 7-0 lead.
The lead was doubled after the Gladiators were forced to punt when the Thrashers drove
74 yards in 11 plays, finished by a 29 yard run from the elusive Josh Amis, and again the
PAT was good. Frustratingly, a penalty against the Gladiators during the drive had negated
a Raul Barclay interception, but this was symptomatic of the Gladiators’ play on the day.
Things went from bad to worse on the resulting kick off. A short kick wasn’t fielded by the
Gladiators and the Thrashers were quickest to react and pounce on the loose, live ball,
reclaiming possession. Ian Digby briefly thwarted the Solent offence with his team’s
second interception of the day but one play later, Bourke also threw his second so the
Thrashers were set up just 26 yards out.
Three plays later, Amis again was too elusive and ran in from 11 yards out. The extra point
made the first quarter score 21-0.
The Gladiators’ offence started to find some rhythm after a good kick-off return by Chris
Jackson and a 20 yard completion from Bourke to Vic Williams took the ball deep into the
Solent half. A fourth down play failed however and the first quarter ended with the
Thrashers in possession.
After good play by James Birch and Christian Steward, the Gladiators got the ball back but
another disaster occurred when they were forced to punt. A bad snap could not be fielded
by punter Sam Huxtable and it was all he could do to secure possession but the Thrashers
were able to take over just 20 yards out.
A further score was narrowly averted when a fumble by the fullback was scooped up by
Sam Gennings on the one yard line and returned to the 20 but again the Gladiators failed to
take advantage of the turnover by handing the ball straight back. On the very next play,
Andy Clarke fumbled a pitch and the Thrashers were again knocking on the door.
One play later, Solent converted the turnover into points with a passing touchdown from the
QB to Amis, to extend the lead to 28-0.
The Gladiators could not move the ball on their next possession but Solent marched down
field with ease, converting on two third and longs, capped by another passing touchdown to
make the half time score 35-0.
The Gladiators finally managed to open their account on their second possession of the
third quarter when Bourke found Huxtable from 11 yards out but Nathan Brown’s extra point
attempt was blocked to leave the score 35-6.
Sky Bultitude, making his first appearance in Gladiators colours for over a year due to
injury, picked off the Solent QB to give his team hope of respectability but again the ball
was handed straight back through Bourke’s fourth interception of the game.
Gladiators’ nemesis Amis scored his fourth of the day with a spectacular 74 yard run
around the outside of the Colchester defence to restore their five score lead and the fourth
quarter began with youngster Huxtable taking over at QB from Bourke.
The junior graduate looked impressively comfortable at the helm and immediately ran 19
yards for a first down connected with Clarke down field for 17 yards and a first down. But
the drive stalled on the Solent 23 when a fourth down play was stopped short and the
Thrashers took over, looking to run down the clock.
Neither team made much impression offensively through the final period and Gennings
snagged the Gladiators fourth pick of the day as the quarter drew to a close on a very
disappointing performance by the Gladiators.
They now have two weeks to prepare for another long trip, to get the season back on track.
Full fixture list:
April 26: @ Solent Thrashers
May 10: @ Farnham Knights
May 17: v Ouse Valley Eagles
May 31: @ Birmingham Bulls
June 7: @ Hertfordshire Cheetahs
June 21: v Cambridgeshire Cats
July 5: v Solent Thrashers
July 19: @ East Kent Mavericks
July 26: v East Kent Mavericks
Aug 2: v Farnham Knights
All home games will be played at Colchester Rugby Club, Mill Road, Colchester.
Full details can be found through the Gladiators’ website at www.colchestergladiators.com.