Photos by Garry Charles @ mylonelytreemedia, Garry Neesam @ Blue Shark Images and Andy Neale @ Whizzyfingers Photography
The Sapphire Series final is upon us and 13 teams will be making their way to Derby. Throughout the first three Sapphires teams have been accumulating qualification points. The top six have be entered into the National Championship. That article is following tomorrow. Today we are taking a look at the Ranking tournament. Those who couldn’t quite cut the mustard. RHUL have withdrawn leaving seven teams. These have been split into two halves. Here is the first half of the draw.
Birmingham Lions B (3-3)
Birmingham missed out on the Championship rounds at the last minute when Derby knocked off the undefeated Leeds Beckett team. They have a wealth of experience on this team that played last year and are lead by GB LB Alice Smith. Those who are rookies have cut their teeth quickly with two matches against Herts and one against London
Sandwell Steelers (1-3)
This team has already been through so much this year. One of their two GB players left before Sapphire 1 and their Head Coach after Sapphire 2 just to name a couple. But after taking some time out at Sapphire 1, they came back to win a game an successfully host the Midlands tournament.
Edinburgh Wolves (0-6)
The only team to score on Birmingham, the Wolves have been hot and cold so far this season. Their record is 0-6 but at time their play is fantastic. Their schedule was very tough with 5 of their 6 losses coming to playoffs teams, some of which were tight games. Edinburgh could easily be the dark horse of this tournament.
Portsmouth Destroyers (1-3)
The Destroyers opened very strong in Sapphire 1 beating RHUL and holding London to within three scores. This hard work was undone in Sapphire 2 when the Tornadoes handed the Destroyers a 68-0 beat down. They subsequently lost their rematch with RHUL and withdrew from Sapphire 3. It will be interesting to see which Portsmouth teams turns up.
The second half of the draw only contains three teams due to RHUL withdrawing.
Manchester Titans (2-4)
They have the numbers and they have the backing. Their opening tournament featured a landslide loss against the defending champions but since then they’ve bounced back winning two games. They have a round robin against two of the arguably weaker teams in the tournament and it will be hard to not see them progress to the final.
They’ve turned up every week with just enough players to start their games and were given the hardest schedule of any team in the country. But they completed it and were given a walkover against Portsmouth. With four GB players on the roster they should have been a force in the south but injury took three of those out before Sapphire even kicked off. Their match against Chester will be very interesting.
Chester Romans (0-2)
Chester sat out the first two Sapphires as they didn’t feel they were ready to compete. Some might say that competing is the best way of improving quickly. It didn’t help much as they lost to playoff contenders Teesside and to old foes Sandwell.
We asked the DC writers. They overwhelmingly went with Birmingham Lion B to win.
Birmingham Lions B – 10 Votes
Manchester Titans -1 Vote