Game 1 – vs. Mustangs at 5Sports

On what started out as a rainy Saturday morning, the sun and the Gators shone bright at Caringbah this week in the opening match of the 2014 campaign against the Wollongong Mustangs. Winning 52 – 16, UTS have proven themselves to be a team to watch this year and putting themselves into 2nd place on the ladder behind rivals Sydney Uni.

Before the game commenced, Coach Rocco Bosco announced his captains for the season with Defensive/Offensive Lineman Tim Clulow and Linebacker Andrew Asher given the full time responsibilities. Coach Bosco also deciding that the other two captain spots were to be given to different players throughout the season for milestones or as reward for performance on and off the field. This week the honours went to Slot Receiver Jim Close for his 100% training attendance during preseason and Linebacker Marcos Delana for his impressive efforts at training. The game opened with the Gators kicking off and put on a solid opening defensive series holding the Mustangs to a 4 and out and giving the offence great field position to work on. This position on the field resulted in a touchdown on the opening series led by new quarterback Brad Leech. With big shoes to fill after the departure of Jean Prill, both Brad and Peter Tos stepped up and combined with their receivers for some big gains, with both taking the run game into their own hands when necessary resulting in crucial yards.

Up 16 – 6 at the half, Coach Bosco encouraged his team to not let up and to keep scoring points. The ensuing kick return answered the challenge with Justin Fatu-Leota running through a huge hole created by fantastic blocks in the middle of the field, he raced through untouched to score his first after having similar impact in games for the Colts team back in 2013. The receivers and backs also kept the points flowing with touchdowns from Matt Schwarz, Brad Leech, Lachlan Jenson and Ben Loudon, another former Colts player scoring his first in Division 1. Also putting up points was Gabriel Marambio taking an impressive intercept from beyond halfway to the house.

The unsung heroes of the huge scoreline from the offense was the offensive line. Allowing no sacks through the whole game on either quarterback (almost spoiled by the banana peel on the field that found the boot of Peter Tos in the 4th quarter) and putting some dominant blocks on Wollongong’s defense in the run game, they have made steps forward from last year and could potentially be the difference this season when it comes to the big games.

The defensive performance of the Gators resulted in passing attempts finding the hands of the UTS secondary more often than their intended targets, even defensive tackle Matt Wilson snatching a pick after he managed to position himself between the running back and quarterback on an attempted shovel pass. The highlight of the day however, belonged to Erhron Noakes who bagged himself 4 intercepts which became the new club record for intercepts in a game by a single player. In what will be in contention for one of the defensive performances of the year, the safety shrugged off the accolades onto his teammates “I don’t know if it was my best game, but I wasn’t the only one out there getting the ball and doing the hard work. It’s easy to make those plays when you have such a strong front 7 putting pressure on the pocket every play. I think we’re in for a great year”. When asked if he was planning on breaking the intercept record for the season (which currently stands at 11) “I don’t specifically plan on breaking but it would be nice. I’m just going to keep doing my best to create turnovers.”

A good all round performance from the Gators gives the team a much needed victory on opening day; however Coach Bosco made it clear to the team after the game that they need to keep building. “Winning is great at highlighting our best, but it is also great at covering the cracks.”

Get down and support the Gators next Saturday as they take on the Newcastle Cobras at 1 o’clock in Forrestville.

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