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Spartans Academy end U17 National Finals ranked 4th

The Essex Spartans Academy U17 team saw their 2016 campaign end with a 4th-placed finish at the National Finals this weekend, following an undefeated regular season and the title of Outer London East Division Winners.

The young Spartans travelled to Doncaster for the Finals Day, or BritBowl, and entered as one of the top-seeded teams following their impressive season. They would be joined by the Chester Romans, East Kilbride Pirates, Birmingham Bulls, Lincolnshire Bombers, Solent Thrashers, Cobham Cougars, and Kent Exiles.

On a cold and rainy day, the Spartans, wearing their new teal throwback jerseys, faced off against old foes and South East Division Champions Kent Exiles in the oprning round of the knockout competition. Games between these two teams are always tight and hard-fought, and this matchup would prove to be no different.

With an almost-deafening wall of noise from both sets of supporters, it was the Spartans hard-hitting defense who struck first, putting the Exiles under pressure from the very first play. The Exiles were unable to secure the handoff, with the Spartans defense dropping the running back in the end zone for an early safety and a 2-0 lead.

Both teams found the weather tough to handle, with neither offense able to move the ball consistently. The game developed into a defensive battle, with neither team willing to give an inch. Sadly, however, the Exiles were able to take the lead late in the first half, a mistake by the Spartans defense allowing the Exiles to score on a quick passing play. The conversion was good, giving Kent a slender halftime advantage of 2-7.

The Spartans found their feet in the second half, and with the defense snuffing out the Exiles attack, the Essex side took the lead with a powering running play. The conversion failed, but the Spartans lead, 8-7.

The Exiles had one more shot to win the game late in the second half, but their long pass attempt fell short, sparking scenes of celebration on the Essex sideline after an incredible victory.

The victory gave the Spartans a spot in the semi-finals, where they would face the Cobham Cougars, a team which consisted largely of American students.

The weather improved, but alas, the Spartans fortunes did not. The Cougars were well-drilled and excuted well, and whilst the Spartans played well, they were unable to provide answers to an impressive passing offense. The Cougars progressed to the final with a 34-14 victory, while the Spartans were left to lick their wounds following their first defeat of 2016.

The final game was a seeding game against the Chester Romans, and the Spartans coaches took the decision to ensure they fully rotated their squad during this game to ensure every player saw game time. The Spartans would go on to lose 22-12, but there is no shame in finishing as the 4th-ranked team in the country, and with a large squad, it was more important to ensure every player in a jersey was able to spend time on the field.

In the Final, the Cougars were unable to compete with the East Kilbride Pirates, who ran away with a convincing victory.

After the day, Spartans Head Coach Steve Watson said; "To finish the year as the 2nd-ranked team in the South, and the 4th-ranked in the entire country, is something we are all incredibly proud of.

"We set our goal this season as to compete at the National Finals, so to do so on the back of everything else we achieved along the way means we have far exceeded that. We knew going in we would have our work cut out to beat Kent in the opening round, so we are all absolutely thrilled to have done so, and absolutely delighted with the season we have had."

The Spartans now turn their attentions to the end-of-season AGM, followed by their annual presentation night, before recruitment begins for the 2017 campaigns.

The Essex Spartans Academy are always recruting new players or looking for anyone able to assist the team in an off-field role, and would encourage anyone interested to contact us via email.


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