By Martin Jefkins
The Kent Exiles kicked off their 2013 campaign with a scrappy 20-12 victory over old foes the Essex Spartans, and in doing so won the inaugural 'Battle for the Bridge' trophy.
The Exiles started fast, when on their second possession Alex Clifford caught 30 yard pass from Zac Ritchie down to the Spartans 20 yard line, and then a great 'toe tap' catch in the endzone saw Clifford score the first touchdown and give the Exiles a 6-0 lead.
Then after the Exiles defense forced a quick end to the Spartans next series, the Exiles scored once again. Ryan Critcher sprinted for a first down, before Ritchie found Colin Chislett on the sideline for a 44 yard touchdown. Ben Abbott kicked the point after, and the Exiles led early 13-0.
The next two quarters were a defensive affair, with the Exiles dominating. Interceptions from Ryan Wilson and Rob Welling, and sacks from Welling, Jon Dwyer, Lewis Whitcombe and Jack Lewis all ending Spartans drives.
At the start of the final period the Exiles pounded the ball with running back Abbott finding holes behind good play from the offensive line, after three successive first downs, Abbott took the ball in from 14 yards out, and then converted his own touchdown to give the Exiles a 20-0 lead.
|Abbot on the run c/o/ Kieron Hyams|
The Spartans finally got on the board on their next drive, another Exiles penalty keeping the drive alive, before Norris Owusu broke free after nearly fumbling the ball for a 40 yard score, bringing the score to 20-6.
After forcing a quick punt the Spartans took over again, and quickly drove into Exiles territory. The Exiles thought they had put the game away when Welling stripped the ball carrier and returned the fumble all the way, but the referees had blown the play dead as forward progress had been stopped. The Spartans then kept the ball on the ground and scored on a one yard run from Lee Millar, and with under 2 minutes left it was 20-12.
The Exiles recovered the onside kick attempt, and despite giving the ball back to the Spartans with 20 seconds left time expired before they could get close to scoring.
|Exiles Head Coach Tony Bainbridge|