If you were looking for a Sapphire Series finals preview, you may wish to look no further than this weekend!
A new twist to the top tier of the series for 2017, inter-conference fixtures will see the top seeds across both Division One conferences square off on Saturday.
The Manchester Titans play host, as the teams who finished first, second and third in last year’s championship descend on The Armitage Centre, Manchester, for a showdown of four of the five teams that made up the top tier of Sapphire Series this time last year.
Obvious favourites coming into the weekend are the Birmingham Lions who continued their dominance of the women’s game with two convincing wins in the opening southern tournament. They’ll take on hosts Manchester in the opening fixture, and it’ll likely be the toughest test of the Titans’ season to see if they can defend their home turf from the rampaging Lions. Manchester will be hard-pressed to keep pace with the scoring propensity of the Lions’ all-star offence, but will need to be wary of taking to the air too frequently – lest Phoebe Schechter have another five-pick-six fixture!
Meanwhile, perhaps THE match up to watch out for this weekend pits the Leeds Chargers and Hertfordshire Tornadoes against one another.
These two teams came right down to the wire last year, each taking big wins away from one another during the season and forcing a playoff fixture for second place in the final day of #Sapphire16.
In the end Herts edged out the Leeds side, but we know both teams have been building and recruiting throughout the offseason in preparation for locking horns on Sunday! While the ultimate goal for all Division One programmes is to dethrone the Lions, neither side will deny that this fixture has been circled on their calendars. Jessie Anderson had a big first weekend for the Tornadoes, including notching a score up against the resilient Lions’ defence, so don’t be surprised to see the Hertfordshire wideout bust some big plays against a Carnegie defence that has the muscle to make it a lot easier to go around, or over, rather than through.
Similarly, the second round of fixtures will see South vs North, and in stark contrast to the Uniball results this weekend past, expectations will be that the South should hold sway on Saturday. Leeds have recruited all offseason with the goal to challenge for the title spot, but will it be enough to slow down the likes of Kilby and Matta? And might the Titans, with their steady influx of home grown talent, be buoyed by the home crowd and surprise the Tornadoes?
Manchester Titans – Birmingham Lions
Hertfordshire Tornadoes – Leeds Carnegie Chargers
Leeds Carnegie Chargers – Birmingham Lions
Manchester Titans – Hertfordshire Tornadoes