BAFA National League SFC 1 East

COLCHESTER Gladiators lost their second straight game against high-flying Kent Exiles - but showed signs that the season is not yet lost.

Despite the ultimately lopsided scoreline, the Gladiators went toe to toe with the Exiles for the first half.

But two turnovers on their first two possessions of the second helped the Exiles pad the score, before a late touchdown against a tiring Colchester defence gave them a comfortable win.

After losing starting QB Rob Wickham last week, Curtis Bourke had a just a week to practice at the centre of the Colchester offence before taking on a strong Kent defence.

There was not much to choose between the teams in the first half, with both offences making some progress before having to punt the ball away.

The Gladiators’ running game was struggling against the speedy Exiles linebackers and secondary, thwarting Bourke’s efforts to find his receivers.

The first quarter finished scoreless but the home side were quick to break the deadlock in the second period when QB James Cook found receiver Aaron Whitworth in space and launched a perfect strike.

Whitworth then outran the defence for a spectacular 80-yard touchdown and the extra point was kicked, to give Kent a 7-0 lead.

The Gladiators could not sustain a drive but Jack Baily and Josh Milgate combined to sack the QB and force a punt.

Bourke started to find his receivers with Sam Gennings catching passes for 16, 13 and 19 yards, down to the 20.

He then finished the drive with a pinpoint throw to Jake Wickham, who hauled in the strike for a score.

Nathan Brown’s kick was wide but the Gladiators had drawn to within one at 7-6.

Dan Jones sacked Cook to prevent any chance of a quick response and the first half ended with the teams separated by a single point.

The Gladiators received the ball to start the second half and were determined to come out firing.

But on the first play from scrimmage, Bourke was picked off in spectacular style by cornerback Nick Mayer on their own 28.

The Exiles took full advantage of the short field when their running back ran in from a yard out.

The extra point was again good to increase the lead to 14-6.

Disaster struck on Colchester’s next drive. After finding Wickham for 22 yards, Bourke was blind-sided on the next play, forcing the ball loose which was recovered by Kent.

They again made no mistake, taking seven plays to travel the 39 yards, finishing with an eight yard run and the point after took the score to 21-6.

Defences dominated the rest of the third quarter before the Gladiators began a drive at their 17.

An eight-yard run by Eddie Collison and a 21-yard completion to Wickham took the ball to midfield but a second interception put paid to any hopes of a comeback.

With injuries taking their toll, Exiles scored their fourth of the day, a 38-yard run on third and long while the PAT conversion gave the final score a lopsided look.

The Gladiators have no time to recover as they travel to London for a rematch against the Hornets on Sunday, kick-off 2.30pm.