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Gladiators coach Roberts wants his side to rise to the challenge
9:00am Saturday 14th September 2013 in Sport
COLCHESTER Gladiators head coach Matt Roberts wants his side to rise to the challenge when they host Bristol Apache in the National Division play-off quarter-finals at Mill Road on Sunday.
The Gladiators’ aim to make the National Final when they return to the play-offs after a four-year absence, following a superb season which has seen them win all ten of their league games.
They swept all teams before them in the regular season, scoring an impressive 51.3 points per game.
Their opponents Apache finished as National Division Southern Conference runners-up, with an 8-2 record.
Roberts said: “Without a doubt, this is the most important game of our season.
“I’m pleased to say bar a few niggles, the team is looking healthy and are really up for it.
“For a large number of our players this is their first taste of play-off football so it’ll be great to see how they respond and rise to the challenge.
“We’re lucky to have, even with a fairly young side, a lot of experience, with guys having played for other teams, so it will be vital for them to stand up and really lead from the front and help set the tone.
“Bristol is a very solid and able side with a lot of experienced players who have played in the top flight for their sister club, the Aztecs.
“Therefore we know it will be a physical battle and easily our toughest game of the season but we’re hoping with some great home team support we can go through the gears and get the win.”
The Gladiators expect to field a strong side against Apache, having had three weeks to shake off any niggles.
But linebacker Joe Wilson and defensive lineman Dave Crane are doubts after suffered knee injuries midway through the regular season.
However, Gladiators will be strengthened by the return of AJ Crabbe from international duty.
The winner of this weekend’s quarter-final will go on to contest the southern final – the national semi-final.
The Gladiators be successful, they will go on to meet the northern champions in the National Final in Leeds, on October 5.
Admission to the match, which starts at 2.30pm, is free with a barbeque and beer tent available pitchside.
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