THE Gippsland Gladiators fell one point short in the opening match of the 2016 Gridiron Victoria season against the Ballarat Falcons.
The Gladiators offence, behind strong blocking, mounted a few early drives, moving the ball deep into Falcons territory, before coming up just short.
The Falcons attack struggled to move the ball with consistency, partly because of a stingy Gladiators defence.
On their third offensive possession, the Gladiators’ rookie running backs, Johnny Mifsud and Daniel White, methodically moved the ball down the field, before quarterback Tom Veale connected with wide receiver Dan Chessels on a 39-yard pass for the day’s first score.
The Gladiators kicker, Dan Golcic, was then successful on the extra point kick.
The Gladiators’ defence, led by some great tackles by Pat Klisiewicz and Jesse Peters, quickly got the ball back for their offence, which drove to the Falcons’ six-yard line, before losing a fumble.
On the Gladiators’ last possession of the first half, time ran out with the offence threatening to score at the opponent’s 18 yard line.
Early in the second half, the Gladiators struggled to move the ball with the same effectiveness as in the first, and Ballarat took advantage by scoring its first touchdown.
After making their two point conversion, the score was 8-7 in Falcons’ favour.
Late in the final quarter, Veale connected on his second long touchdown pass to receiver Golcic.
The Gladiators then elected to go for the two-point conversion, but fumbled the snap and were unsuccessful, making the score 13-8.
With time running out the Falcons gave a final surge, completing a pass deep into Gladiators’ territory, scoring on the following play with only seconds left in the game.
After missing their extra point attempt, the Falcons took the lead and the win, 14-13.
The Gladiators face the Northern Raiders on Sunday at Heatherbrae Reserve, Arena Parade, Officer.