Game of the Week | Week Five: Bristol Aztecs vs Kent Exiles
By George Buksmann
The Premiership South’s newest team, the Kent Exiles, will make the 292-mile round trip to Bristol this week to face off against the Aztecs as both teams search for their first win of the season in this week’s Game of the Week!
Premiership Debut Knocks Exiles
Kent’s debut fixture in week three was competitive, which they led for most of the game, but an inspired Olympians comeback saw them snatch the victory 33-23.
“Sunday’s game against the Olympians was our first game in the Premiership,”
Said Head Coach John Moore,
“We knew the Olympians would be tough, it was their first game too, so we didn’t know where they would in terms of preparation or what schemes they would run.
We started really well, putting points on the board early on. The game was really close with only four points in it right up until their final score late in the game. We were all disappointed which in itself tells a story. It tells me that the players now know they can be competitive at this level. That’s a big psychological barrier overcome for players, many of whom who haven’t played at this level.
The team are feeling positive about what we can achieve in the coming weeks. The score clearly sent a message amongst players not yet signed to a club. Sunday night saw a flurry of new signings from players not yet committed to a team. So, we are in a good place right now.”
The Exiles will be bolstered by the return of receiver Tom Lee. The wideout is fresh off a productive season for the Stirling Clansmen which saw him lead the team in receptions. They will be hoping that Lee can develop his rapport with quarterback James Cook, giving them another offensive weapon.
Veteran running back Dan Exell burst out the gates in week three which saw him rack up 100 rushing yards against the Olympians and Coach Moore believes Exell will be key against the Aztecs.
Defensively Kent will look to their linebacker core to impose themselves in this weekend’s fixture, with Joe Jebb, Joe Alexis and Theo Coleman-Brown expected to have a real impact for the team.
“Bristol gave Blitz a close game in the first half – they looked fast and difficult to run against,”
“We know nothing will be given this year, everything will have to be earned. Aztecs will want to win this game so I’m anticipating a difficult encounter. Hopefully, we will travel well and give them a good game.”
Blitz veteran expertise outlasts Aztecs
Bristol opened their campaign in week one with a 33-2 loss to the Blitz, while not the result they would have wanted it has given them ample time to prepare for the Exiles. Though they ultimately came up well short, the clash with the Blitz showed lots of positives for a team comprised of starlets – holding one of the countries top programmes to a 7-0 lead at half time is no easy feat! Yet, the Blitz’ veteran expertise clearly showed in the second half as they rounded out a 33-2 win.
“7-0 at the half was a fair reflection,” said Coach Ben Herod, “But with our team being so young we couldn’t keep that level of focus with no spare bodies through the entire game, we had 11 players to play 11 spots on offence.”
“The Exiles are up next, that’s a different set of challenges than the first game. A lot more players will be getting their first taste of senior football again with half our team never having played adult football before against the Blitz.”
There is a clear emphasis on the development of young players with quarterback Nathan Webb playing just his first senior game against the Blitz. His development will be helped by having “the best tight end in Britain to pass the ball to in Sean Cook,” Herod said.
The Aztecs boast a talented bunch of defensive backs and a young and developing offensive line.
“Defensively we have a load more PRIDE kids stepping up for their first or second game with real playmakers. George Rimes has a habit of making big impact plays as does our one old head, Justin Thomas.”
“We are expecting a very well-run team.”
Shared Coach Herod,
“I could not be happier for Dave Pester to see his team up in the top flight. A true champion of the sport developing a very good feeder system with his grassroots program. They have talent across the board so if the weather lends itself to passing it will be interesting to see how the two young quarterbacks’ matchup. I think it will be a close game.”
The Exiles have already proved that they can score in the Prem, in addition to being one of the top offences in division one last year, but ultimately problems on defence allowed the Olympians back into the game.
Bristol are yet to score offensively this season but have proved they can go toe-to-toe with the most elite programmes and while the reliance on youth can be a blessing in disguise, a lack of veteran expertise can be a hindrance.
Despite this, the Aztecs have established themselves as a consistent team in the Prem South. Aztecs to win.