Sapphire Series Week Four Recap

A great weekend of action across the three tournaments taking place as every scheduled game was played to completion!

The East Kilbride Pirates earned their second win of the year, picking up a victory over the Derby Braves, while the Edinburgh Wolves turned heads as they took a win away from the Leeds Carnegie Chargers in a nail-biting top-of-the-table clash in Division One North!

In Division One South the headline fixture saw the Birmingham Lions move ahead of the pack, as they took control in the second half against the London Warriors – the two teams neck and neck through the first period.

Meanwhile, in Division Two this conference just keeps getting more interesting as the results were all flipped from when the teams last met – the Cheshire Bears, in particular, having a dominant day, winning both of their games and meaning all three teams are currently tied up at 2-2 records ahead of their third tourney in a fortnight’s time!

Once again, baller Robyn Steward, ably assisted by Maria Peeters and Celine Bisson have worked with teams across the Britball Nation to put together this recap of the action across the Women’s game this past Saturday!

Sapphire Week Four Recap

Division One North

With information provided by the Edinburgh Wolves.

We saw a full slate of teams in the North this weekend as the Derby Braves returned to action, having missed the previous tournament due to injuries.

The four fixtures included a fairly predictable first round, as the top two teams in the North took on outfits they’d already beaten comfortably this season.

Hosts, the Edinburgh Wolves, faced off against fellow scots, the East Kilbride Pirates, and the Wolves were clearly hungry as McDougall opened the scoring early with two quick touchdowns to open the game, capitalising with a tasty two-point catch by Lynch.

Runs by Wright allowed Edinburgh to keep the ball moving, making defenders miss tackles while Safeties by Duche and Bell added more points to the board as the EKP offence struggled to get out of their own half. With impressive coverage from Dignan, Connell, Gunn, McKillop and Hunter halting any EKP attempt at a passing game, while the defensive line of Lomax, Bell and Allan kept up the pressure play after play.

Having opened up a 32-0 lead at the half, the pace slowed in the second as both teams perhaps began to look towards their crucial second fixtures – Wolves running out comfortable winners 48-0.

Meanwhile, on the other field defending D1 North champs, the Leeds Chargers, were taking on the returned-from-injury Derby Braves for the first time this season – the two teams having missed their first potential meeting in Week Three.

Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to speak with either of these teams, but as the scoreline shows, the Chargers continued their dominant-looking form, racking up 40-0 scoreline – notably, however, the Chargers’ lowest scoring win of the season so far.

The second round brought the much juicier matchups – as the Pirates took on the Braves, hungry for a second seven-a-side victory in club history, and the two undefeated programmes squared off for pole position going into the final weekend of regular series fixtures!

For East Kilbride, much like it had been against the Titans the week before, it was a game where things just seemed to click, as they put in strong showings in all phases – a lone safety the only score allowed in the fixture, and allowing EKP to finish their series on a high with a win – potentially enough to secure them a third-place finish in the North!

However, the headline matchup was taking place on the other pitch, as the Chargers and Wolves clashed for the first time this series. Both teams had looked untouchable up to this point with dominant scorelines against each of their other conference rivals… Both teams knew that the Northern title, and postseason seeding, would come down to this fixture and their second meeting a fortnight later… and boy did this one not disappoint!

The Chargers came out of the gate fastest – miscommunication in the Wolves defence and a strong first series from the Leeds O saw the Chargers open the scoring on their first drive. Quickly getting the ball back from Edinburgh, the second Leeds drive was far less successful, as a botched snap lead to Moody and Duche dragging the Chargers QB down in the endzone to notch up a safety.

Again the Wolves offence couldn’t get moving, while the Chargers notched up a further score just ahead of the half, holding a 2-14 going into the break.

However, the second half saw quite a different picture, as Wolves wideout Mullen’s athleticism allowed the Wolves offence to finally start clicking, and the teams began trading scores.

Injuries to both Wolves running backs might have put the Wolves chances in peril, but Moody and Duche stepped across the line of scrimmage to ironwoman the remainder of the fixture, and proved to to be a force to be reckoned with in the late stages of the game!

The Leeds offence was slowing down its scoring, and gave up yet another safety to Edinburgh’s swarming defence – these small scores proving crucial as the teams entered the final minutes of the game with Edinburgh up by a mere 2 points!

The Wolves offence had a chance to close out the game in the final minute, but an impressively resilient Chargers D stifled them – giving the Chargers a final chance at retaking the lead with just 15 seconds on the clock!

Dignan dropped back to the halfway line as the last woman of the defence expecting the on-form Leeds QB to attempt a hail mary pass to one of her receivers. However, the pass never came, as a strip-sack by Duche saw the ball popped loose and Bell jumped on it to recover.

Wolves had won the game and McDougall and her offence came on for the last 5 seconds to take a knee and see the game out.

Final Scores:

  • East Kilbride Pirates 0-48 Edinburgh Wolves
  • Leeds Chargers 40-0 Derby Braves
  • Edinburgh Wolves 28-26 Leeds Chargers
  • East Kilbride Pirates 21-2 Derby Braves

 

Division One South

By Editor

Afraid we didn’t hear anything from the Southern half of the top tier following the fourth tournament for this conference, so we’ll do our best to share a summary with what info we’ve been able to dig up!

Defending Sapphire champions, the Birmingham Lions, played host to the fourth outing of Division One South, and after the last two tournaments found themselves a teams short following the withdrawal of the Dreadnoughts, it was great to see a full field of four contenders compete – the Hertfordshire Tornadoes, Sandwell Steelers and London Warriors venturing into the Lions’ den!

Much like in the North, the scheduling leant itself to a climactic day of competition in the South, with the first round of fixtures consisting of games expected to be fairly one-sided based on the previous meetings between the squads earlier in the Series.

Hosts, Birmingham, made short work of Hertfordshire on Pitch One, looking dominant in all phases of the game. Meanwhile, the impressive-looking London Warriors took on a Sandwell Steelers side they had beaten comfortably just a fortnight prior – and though the Steelers weren’t able to put up any points of their own this time around, they showed a significant improvement on the defensive side of the football, keeping the Warriors to a much more modest 28 points of offence.

Even so, the first round was really just something of an aperitif for the second set of fixtures, as the Steelers and Tornadoes squared off the first time this Series – the victor looking likely-favourites for a third-place finish in the south – while the Lions and Warriors met for a third, decisive, clash.

Again, Sandwell’s defence put in a good showing against the more experienced Herts side, but their offence still couldn’t find any momentum – a safety their lone score of the game, while the Tornadoes ground out two scores of their own on broken plays – Oli Davies displaying her exceptional athleticism to bust out a score the length of the field!

However, in the headline top-of-the-table clash, the scoring was much more frequent as the two titans of the women’s game traded blows, and traded scores.

Both outfits were moving the ball well, and perhaps it was only fitting that they hit the half with the score tied at 21-points a-piece!

Heading back to their huddles, coaches on both sidelines looked at what adjustments they might make… and it seems as though the veteran experience of the Birmingham roster and coaches may have been telling here, as the second half told a very different story to the first – the Warriors continued to move the ball, but couldn’t punch in scores – a problem the Lions didn’t seem to be suffering from.

As the Lions began to rack up scores, the Warriors could only answer with one further touchdown of their own, and so despite this clash being perhaps as hotly contested as any meeting between these two teams this season, the Lions emerged 44-27 victors – crucially with a 2-1 advantage in the series against the Warriors, and thus favourites to take the D1 South title if they can play to form in Tournament Five.

 

Final Scores:

  • Birmingham Lions 56-0 Hertfordshire Tornadoes
  • London Warriors 28-0 Sandwell Steelers
  • Hertfordshire Tornadoes 13-2 Sandwell Steelers
  • Birmingham Lions 44-27 London Warriors

 

Division Two North

And finally, the Cheshire Bears shared match reports from their superb second outing of the Series – the second set of fixtures in D2 North making it apparent this is easily the most hotly-contested conference in Sapphire this winter!

Cheshire Bears v Teesside Steelers

By Cheshire Bears

Our offence on the field first with a wobbly start and an errant pass picked off by Teesside. However, Bears D denied any potential gains with a great bat down from DB Sam Merry and with our O having a talking to brushed off the first drive nerves and got to work. Some fantastic running from RB Helena Lasok-Smith but stopped inches short, the offence it would seem were just getting warmed up for what would be a great performance all day. Defence got to work with several tackles in the backfield and another bat down from MVP for the day DB Sam Merry meant Teesside struggled to move the ball on the ground or the air.

Rookie RB/WR Hannah Roberts opening up her game with a good run and a deep pass from QB Rach Broadhurst to WR Natalie Kelly set up the 1st down and more. Unfortunately, a fumbled pitch pushed them back, but QB Rach connected to WR Natalie yet again, this time for a TD, XP no good.

Bears Dline made several tackles for losses and another bat down this time from rookie DB Belle Hughes but the ball right back to our offense. RB Jo Craze with a great run following her blocks but unfortunately was injured and out of the game on the following play. QB Rach completed a short pass to rookie Hannah before taking to her legs to get into the redzone and another short pass to Hannah in tight coverage for the TD. XP no good.

A momentary lapse of concentration just seconds before the half and Teesside ran down the sideline the length of the pitch for their first TD with XP no good. Half finished 12-6 to Bears.

Out of the half Bears defence were ready to fire after their mistake with a forced fumble created and recovered by rookie LB Alison Lawrence and RB Helena was able to capitalise converting for another Bears TD, XP no good.

Teesside didn’t want to see the game run away and a determined few runs got them another TD with XP no good. However, our offence answered back again with an amazing catch in double coverage from WR Natalie Kelly tackled just outside the endzone. A couple of runs trying to punch it in where stopped on the goal line, so a well designed fake took defenders the other way with a QB keep getting a free run for the TD, XP no good.

Teesside with a good drive to try and get back into the game, but tackles came in from LB’s Holly Hughes and Felicity Cossa and a bat down from LB Alison Lawrence stopped them in their tracks. Teesside needed something to get them back in the game and their defence came up with a safety. Fired up Teesside offence came out with the trick plays driving up the field but Bears defence held firm and kept them just short out of the endzone. The game ended with a brilliant sack from Dline Megan Delaney and the score 24-14.

Final score: Cheshire Bears 24-14 Teesside Steelers

 

Cheshire Bears v Birmingham Lions B

By the Cheshire Bears

Bears defence still on a high from the first win piled on the pressure with Dline Jeorgia Woods getting a tackle for a loss and a fumble in the end zone with fellow Dline Charley Jeffries jumping on the ball for a defensive TD. XP no good. Defence back on with B’ham trying to drive up the field but some fantastic tackles by LB Holly & DB Sam kept them short. Offense decided they wanted a piece of the action and RB Helena Lasok-Smith duking defenders for a 1st down with a pass to WR Natalie Kelly for the TD and XP good to Natalie again for 2.

B’ham however answered right back with a deep passing TD and a run in for the XP for 2. RB Helena got to work again with a brilliant run and a catch with yards after the fact for the TD, XP no good.

Bears D had some tackles and great coverage but a short completed pass slipped defenders and a long yardage after the fact gave B’ham another TD with XP good for 2. Much to the delight of the fans Bears offence weren’t done and a great run from rookie Hannah got the 1st and a pass to WR Natalie Kelly in the corner of the endzone gave another 6 points on the board before the half for the Bears. The defence then kept Lions out and the first half finished 24-16 to Bears.

Straight out the gates RB Helena ran the length of the pitch doing what she does best making defenders miss for the TD, with XP no good. But Bears D had their pass coverage blown on a messed up play left a wide open Lion WR making easy work for the B’ham TD, XP no good. Lions defence managed to stop our O for the first time but unfortunately for them it was only answered back by a sack from LB’s Holly and Felicity.

Rookie Hannah with some short runs and RB Helena finishing off with help from an OLine push into the endzone for another Bears TD, XP no good.

Bears defence were feeling the strain at this point with such quick offensive touchdown plays they were on the pitch the majority of the time and picked up injuries to key players including MVP DB Sam and they couldn’t hold on as B’ham managed a deep passing touchdown on a blown coverage, XP no good.

Offence still at work with a great run from QB Rach for a 1st down and a brilliant pass to Hannah for the TD, XP no good. And the game finished on a high with a Lions fumble in the endzone and LB Alison Lawrence coming up with the safety for 2 more points.

The Bears declared offensive MVP rookie Offensive Linewoman Jodie Stevens, for outstanding blocking all game without which all the TD’s wouldn’t have been possible!

 

Full time: Cheshire Bears 46-28 Birmingham Lions B

 

Birmingham Lions B v Teesside Steelers

By Editor

Afraid to say we didn’t hear anything from these two outfits, so I’ll just try to share a summary:

The final fixture of the day saw the two outfits that had lost out to the Bears square off, with potential for the Lions to edge ahead in the Conference should they emerge on top.

However, Birmingham were coming into the game fresh off their loss to the Bears, and it looks like fatigue and injuries perhaps took their toll on the less-experienced Lions. Despite besting the Steelers 22-32 back in Week Two, the Lions offence simply couldn’t get moving in this second meeting, leaving an already worn defence on the field for far too much of this fixture.

The Steelers, feeling perhaps more fresh following their game off in between fixtures, came out firing on all cylinders and put in their strongest offensive performance of the Series so far – emerging as 38-8 victors!

Most excitingly, this result meant the three teams had all proven themselves capable of besting one another already this Series. Further, all three would head into the second half of their Series deadlocked at 2-2, meaning it’s all to play for in the final two weeks of Sapphire in the D2 North!!

Final Score: Teesside Steelers 38-8 Birmingham Lions B

 

Our thanks to Robyn, Maria and Celine for assembling all the info for this recap of the second Saturday of Sapphire – if you’re interested in helping spread the word about the great things going on in the women’s game you can either get in touch with Robyn Steward on Facebook, or contact DC directly at editor@dblcoverage.com!

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1