The Sapphire Series Division One northern conference kicked off Saturday at Crownpoint Sports Complex in Glasgow. This is the first time we have seen Scotland host a women’s tournament to date. The East Kilbride Pirates hosted Leeds Chargers, Manchester Titans and Edinburgh Wolves.
The two Scottish sides, East Kilbride Pirates and Edinburgh Wolves, have made the big move up from 5-a-side to 7-a-side this season. With a baptism by fire, they both played their first games against 7’s veterans Manchester Titans and Leeds Chargers, respectively.
Northern powerhouse, Leeds, took on the Wolves first and showed them how an experienced outfit looks on both sides of the ball.
In the first half, Leeds’s defense played hard football, getting into the backfield and putting pressure on the rookie QB, Cat McDougall. A succession of quick touchdowns from Leeds offensive weapons didn’t get Edinburgh down, as they replied with a touchdown just before halftime.
The start of the second half saw the momentum in the Wolves’ corner, as their defensive end, Rachael Moody forced a safety.
Leeds, ranked third in the country at the end of Sapphire 2016, knew exactly how to turn it up a notch. Linebacker Bo Steward and safety Beverly Marwood (her first game back since having reconstructive knee surgery) were fighting for the tackle stats all game. RB Gaby Knobs powered down the field, thanks to a strong performance from the Leeds O-Line and created problems for the Edinburgh defense. Wolves responded with a touchdown from Amy Wright, but the game ended Edinburgh 16-52 Leeds.
On the other field, EKP were experiencing not a dissimilar challenge. Taking on the self-proclaimed ‘Big Blue Wrecking Crew’, Manchester Titans lived up to their name.
They scored a touchdown on the first drive, courtesy of Sian Kersse, followed by a conversion, run in by Karis Smith. EKP responded with a strong first drive, but unfortunately Claire Cochrane was stopped short on the 4th down. Titan’s offence hit the field and Kersse swiftly added their 3rd touchdown. Keeley Edmonds scored the conversion this time, distancing the Titans even further from EKP.
The start of the second half saw QB Sarah Ul Haq pass to Vicky Evans, which was instantly broken up by EKP defender, Heather McGowan. The EKP defense continued to gain momentum in the second half, getting a sack by Becca Asquith and the next play, Asquith did the same for a safety!
On a conversion attempt by the Manchester Titans, EKP defender Asquith ripped the ball from the opponent and returned it from their end zone for another 2 points. This player will definitely be one to watch throughout the Sapphire Series. The game finished with Titans winning 55-4 against EKP.
The next round of games were the main event in the North, with 7’s newcomers and 7’s veterans going head to head!
First up was the battle of the clans, as dubbed by Head of Women’s Development, Jim Messenger. The Wolves played the Pirates last year and were narrowly defeated. This year, they were coming for revenge.
The first half was determined by both teams’ defenses, not allowing either side to even make it near the endzone.
The start of the second half saw Angela Wilson make an interception, to give their offence good field position. Unfortunately the Edinburgh defense, with the likes of Rachael Moody, didn’t allow for a conversion and the ball was turned over.
Fiona Lynch capitalized on this and had a short run in for a touchdown. EKP were back on the field and the Wolves took advantage of a lack of ball security, with Cat McDougall running the ball in for another touchdown. Amy Wright finished the game with another rushing touchdown, taking the wind out of the Pirate’s sails. Full time: EKP 00-18 Wolves.
The final game of the day saw Manchester Titans take on Leeds. The Chargers have historically won every game versus the Titans, but Manchester were looking to rectify that and came out hot from the starting blocks.
Both teams played hardball, making this one of the hardest fought games to date! Manchester have new recruit Sian Kersse, a former Hertfordshire Tornadoes player, who was making yards for the team. However, this simply wasn’t enough against the likes of Leeds’ defenders Lisa Thomas, Bo Steward and Bev Marwood.
Both O-lines from the northern teams seemed to be on fire, as their blocks were making huge holes for Leed’s back Gaby Knops and protecting rookie QB Ruth Brazier who got some touchdowns under her belt in her first outing. Manchester’s offense were moving the ball well, but couldn’t find paydirt to give themselves the W – leaving the final score Leeds 49 – 22 Manchester.
Final Fixture Scores
Edinburgh 16 – Leeds 52
Manchester 55 – EKP 4
EKP 0 – Edinburgh 18
Leeds 49 – 22 Manchester