After an electric start to the Sapphire Series two weeks ago, round two saw the Derby Braves host the Division One title race, but with a twist, welcoming teams from the north and south into an “east” inter-conference round, all held at home ground, Derby Racecourse.
With Edinburgh Wolves and East Kilbride Pirates saddling up for the long trip down to the south, London’s Warriors made up the foursome.
The first game – a matchup between Derby and East Kilbride – saw both teams looking to stamp their authority with a win, off the back of two defeats for both teams in week one.
The home side came out all guns blazing, with Ashley Del’Osa stepping in at QB and Hannah Odam running the ball well to secure early inroads. The Pirates put up a compelling fight, arguably against the odds – Derby’s superior experience telling – but after losing two players to serious injury, the demand for the squad to step up and play both ways eventually took its toll. Becca Asquith and a brilliant interception from Claire Cochrane positives for the Scot’s side, but with the Derby defence working hard, turnovers were their reward, leaving the Brave’s offense able to effectively capitalise.
Final score: Derby 29 – 8 EKP.
On the adjacent field, Edinburgh Wolves took on the London Warriors. With a similar P2 W1 record between them from round one, the question was which of these 5s sides from last year would make the first move… and it was the Wolves – their defence picking a six from London’s first drive, Gina Day grabbing the headlines, but with thanks from her team-mates for helping to bundle her into the end zone. However, a quick response from Marena Newton-Write (plus successful 1pt conversion) re-balanced proceedings.
Despite a fantastic strip-sack from Wolves’ and Great Britain DE Rachel Moody, alongside a solid effort by the rest of the Edinburgh defence, the Warriors’ concerted pressure eventually told, leading the flood gates to open, Siobhan Walker, Erin Kowalchuk and Zoe Smith all benefiting and finding paydirt.
Final score: Edinburgh 17 – London 44.
The second set of games saw Derby, buoyant from their first Sapphire victory, take on Edinburgh. Pumped up after a positive showing against a strong London outfit, both sides showed intent and endeavour in the early exchanges but it was Derby that flexed first and from there never let go.
Lindsey Robson and Collete Wong with the highlight reel talking points – two pick sixes respectively, before the offense grabbed the proverbial mic – Penny Brammer owning a 24yd reception to keep Derby’s chains moving. An industrious shift from Edinburgh’s Lara Connell and Lynsey Llewellyn, Vicky Harper and Gina Day, helped create plenty of chaos (and along with two safeties), but the scoreboard favoured the home side, and for good reason.
Final score: Derby 33 – 4 Edinburgh.
Unfortunately, due to injuries sustained in their first game against Derby, EKP were unable to field a team against London and so forfeited a 1-0 walkover, giving the Warriors an easy three game points.
A dominant display from the southern division’s representatives, yielding maximum game points for Derby and London, leaves Division One South brimming over with winning score lines following round two – makes it all to play for in round three when regular conference battles resume for the all-important top two play-off spots.
Next week’s preview should be interesting!
By Alice Smith