This Saturday sees the first weekend of the Sapphire Series with the Sandwell Steelers hosting the Divison Two North & West Conference. The visiting teams include; Cardiff Valkyries, Chester Romans, Staffordshire Surge and Teesside Steelers.
Veterans Teesside Steelers are the longest standing and most experienced team in the conference. They were pipped to the post in Sapphire 2016 after holding the lead for most of the series. They missed out on the Division 2 Northern conference title after losing the final game to the Edinburgh Wolves.
The most recent Opal Series also saw an impressive performance from Teesside, having placed fourth overall in the UK. With the best record compared to their fellow teams in this conference, Teesside are likely to be a dominating force this year.
The women’s game is the fastest growing part of Britball and this conference sees the addition of the Cardiff Valkyries and Staffordshire Surge to the Sapphire Series. Both formed around a year ago and this weekend marks their first competitive contact games as a team. Staffordshire have one of the smallest rosters in this conference and Cardiff have the least competitive experience; will they make a lasting impression or will first-time nerves get the better of them?
This conference also reunites long-time frenemies the Chester Romans and Sandwell Steelers. Sandwell will be looking to defend their undefeated record against Chester, however their last match up was back in 2015. Both teams have changed dramatically in that time and both finished third in their respective divisions in Sapphire 2016, meaning this matchup is likely to be a hotly contested one!
The structure of the day is set as three rounds of games with each team competing in two games. The first round of games across two pitches sees a ‘battle of the Steelers’ with Teesside playing Sandwell, and Chester facing off against Staffordshire. The subsequent rounds on the day depend on the outcome of the first with the winners from the first round to compete against each other and Cardiff to play against the losing teams from the first round.
|Round 1||Game A: Teesside vs Sandwell|
|Game B: Chester vs Staffordshire|
|Round 2||Cardiff vs Losing team from game B|
|Round 3||Winner from game A vs Winner from game B|
|Losing team from game A vs Cardiff|
Points are awarded as follows: 1 point for a completed game:,+ 1 point for a tie, or + 2 for a win with position of teams with the same points determined by lowest points conceded.
Our expectations are that Teesside are likely to be the team to watch in this conference and will come out on top in their fixtures. However, the middle of the conference looks like it could be a feisty one, with teams trading wins. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Cardiff perform in what is near enough their first competitive outing – the young programme will have to work hard to take its first scalp in Tournament One!
Feature image (c) Geoff White – GW-Images.com