Fourth and final tourney of the series for the South & East, and while the Teesside Steelers seemed to have a stranglehold on the North & West title coming into the final fight club, in the South & East all signs pointed towards an epic final-fixture between the top two teams… and the event on Saturday certainly didn’t disappoint!
Runners-up Portsmouth Dreadnoughts had a stellar game against Peterborough Royals. Their defence performed admirably; Hattie Amis forcing turnovers seemingly every time she was on the field, and Georgia Teague playing out of position, but still laying some hits. That being said Peterborough Royals did manage to squeeze past the well-drilled defense for a score of their own. Unfortunately, the PAT was unsuccessful, along with all subsequent attempts to get over the line.
Portsmouth’s offense showed the power we have come to know and love throughout the series, racking up an impressive 65 points. Iiona Sennett and Lucy Moss were a formidable combination, with Sennett firing off some laser passes, and Moss being a scoring threat at every opportunity. Peterborough Royals struggled to keep the Dreadnoughts out of the end zone, though Leanne Tyers did bring a bright spark to the Royals’ defence’s day, scoring the Royals’ first ever defensive touchdown
The Royals came into the series as a brand-new team with very few experienced ballers to build their foundation upon; they played in borrowed jerseys during their first tournament. Since then, they have developed both as a team, and individually as players. Between now and #Sapphire18, they have plenty of time to further hone their skills, and are likely to come back and give any team they come across a run for their money.
Final Score: Portsmouth Dreadnoughts 65 – 6 Peterborough Royals
Oh When The Saints…
Playing on home turf, the Wembley Stallions were looking for nothing less than two wins in order to clinch the top spot in the conference. Their first game was against the Oxford Saints, who, much to the Stallions despair, came right out of the gates with a score. Not to be outdone, Wembley replied with a touchdown of their own, however the home side managed to complete their conversion, something the Saints had failed to do. Both teams entered the end zone once more before half time, making it a tense half time as both teams planned adjustments.
The second half started with the Oxford defense getting themselves a tasty interception, followed by Wembley forcing a fumble to get ‘their’ ball back, and this turnover appeared to be the big momentum changer. From then on it was all Stallions – touchdown after touchdown for the home side.
Oxford struggled to maintain the momentum they’d built up in the first half, especially after being held at Wembley’s 2-yard line. A pick-6 from Stallions’ Lina Malten was the final nail in the Saints’ coffin.
Final Score: Wembley Stallions 52 – 12 Oxford Saints
I can’t think of any more bad puns…
Peterborough Royals’ second game of the day and final of the series was against the freshly defeated Oxford Saints. The Royals, despite having suffered a heavy loss of their own, were looking to capitalize on the potentially dejected Saints and hopefully win their second game of the series.
Sadly, that was not to be. Peterborough’s team was rather depleted of their starters, including their defensive captain, and playing against the Saints’ capable offence and the running of diminutive playmaker, Josie McInerney, this left the Royals vulnerable.
That said, the lack of starters didn’t stop the Royals finding ways to post up a couple of scores, but ultimately it wasn’t enough and Peterborough fell to Oxford, meaning the Saints were able to close out the series at .500, while the Royals will be pleased with the progress they’ve made this year, if not their final record.
Final Score: Oxford Saints 41 – 13 Peterborough Royals
Dread the Nought
Last, but definitely not least, the game that everyone was waiting for. Throughout the series, there had been a healthy amount of rivalry between these two teams, each side taking turns to come away with the win in their first two meetings. The last time Portsmouth faced Wembley, the latter won by a single point. With two of the best defenses in the Conference playing each other, everyone thought it was going to be another tight game…
Portsmouth tried everything to get into the end zone. They switched from a run-heavy game, to a passing one, but neither attack made much yardage against a Stallions D that had clearly found its groove.
Wembley replied with a 30-yard touchdown run and followed it up with a second score. The Dreadnoughts took possession, only to fumble the ball on their own 3-yard line.
The Stallions capitalised quickly and added a third touchdown to their collection, with a fourth touchdown coming in the form of a one-handed grab from team captain Grace Hilbourne.
After the half, Portsmouth thought things would finally might be going their own way, after yet another Wembley touchdown was called back for holding… But as the Dreadnoughts tried to claw their way back into the game, Ny Williamson made, in the words of Stallions’ Team Manager, Jackie Smart, a ‘clutch interception’ which sealed the deal on a shut out win for the Stallions.
Final Score: 24 – 0 to Wembley Stallions
The battle for first was ultimately won by London’s own Wembley Stallions, whilst challengers Portsmouth Dreadnoughts apparently used up all their touchdowns of the day racking up a huge win against Peterborough Royals. While the Stallions will be ecstatic at hoisting their first conference title, the south coast side should not be disappointed in their season either – coming oh so close to a conference crown in their first ever season as a team.
Throughout the Series, Oxford Saints have developed well, putting up points against all-comers and earning some big wins along the way. Offensive star, Josie McInerney, was named South & East MVP for the sterling playmaking throughout the year.
Peterborough struggled to move up in the standings, finishing just north of no-showers Iceni, although considering their lack of experience coming into the season they should be very pleased of the development they’ve shown.
We reached out to the teams regarding their season;
The Wembley Stallions had this to say:
“From a Stallions point of view, from losing our opening round fixture to Portsmouth and then winning six games in a row to take the Southern Division Two Title (keeping Portsmouth to zero on the scoreboard), especially with it being on home turf, capped off a great Sapphire Series!”
The Portsmouth Dreadnoughts were gracious in defeat:
“[We would like to] congratulate Wembley and their staff on their conference championship. It has been a great rivalry across the season and on the day, they were simply the better team.”
For now, we have the off-season. Teams have already begun their recruitment for next season (many never stopped), and it’s a time to analyse where things went wrong, and also what went right. For some, there’ll be prep for the upcoming 11-a-side Diamond series, while others have a six month break ahead of the flag-format Opal series kicking off BAFA Women’s balling once again…
Though also of note, the Wembley Stallions have one more game left on their slate this year as they’ve scheduled up a London derby against the the London Warriors in a special exhibition game next weekend – this should be a cracker to see how the Stallions have developed this year as they take on a Division One side!