This Saturday brings us to the fourth and final instalment of #Sapphire17.
Portsmouth Dreadnoughts sit pretty at the top of the table, with Wembley Stallions hot on their heels. Both teams are very well deserving of promotion to Division One should they and BAFA Women’s Football feel they have the roster depth and consistency to make the leap to the seven on seven format of the game for next Sapphire series.
Further down, we have Oxford Saints who have had a fantastic first season, and Peterborough Royals who’ve made some changes since Round One. Perpetually short-staffed Iceni Spears bring up the rear, having been forced to withdraw from the Series due to a lack of players following an injury-ridden start to their campaign.
Despite our initial misapprehension that the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts were affiliated with the Portsmouths Destroyers, the south coast side started their season fielding a team of mostly rookies. Those rookies have done their team proud, losing only to Wembley Stallions so far this season, and by a small enough margin to still hold the tiebreaker over their closest rivals. Their defence held their opposition to low scores, whilst their offence, at times, walked all over new and old teams alike.
To be ready to make the jump from Division Two to Division One following the first ever season would be a fantastic feat!
Wembley Stallions started the series seeded first, and have proved themselves to have developed further on their performance last year. Like their south-coast counterparts, Wembley’s offences and defences have both fought hard battles on the field, forced to make use of the depth of their roster after losing multiple running backs to fractured ankles! With the Dreadnoughts and the Stallions seemingly impossible to catch at the top of the Conference, they’re both going to be fighting to finish top dog on Saturday.
Another ‘fresh’ team that’s made the most of their first season are the Oxford Saints. Starting their campaign with a win (and a very joyous video), Oxford had a solid season. They won some, they lost some. Their biggest losses came against the conference leaders, but even so, they put up a fight. For the Saints this season has been about development, and develop they have. No matter what happens over the weekend, they will finish at a very respectable mid-table position. They should be proud of what they have achieved.
The other newcomers, the Peterborough Royals, return to their home conference after a brief stint Up North. The Royals have had a topsy-turvy series, with only one win under their belt so far, though it’s likely the Spears’ withdrawal has robbed the Royals of the opportunity for some extra wins. It’ll be tough to move up the rankings regardless of results this weekend, but overall the shiny-new programme should be proud of the progress they’ve made this season!
Unfortunately, having missed both rounds two and three, the Iceni Spears were disappointed to have to announce their withdrawal from Sapphire 2017. Their small travelling squad has meant that they weren’t able to compete following injuries sustained in their opening tourney, but we’d expect the Spears to return for the BAFA women’s Flag Football series, the Opal series, later this year, with aspirations for another shot at Sapphire in 2018.
For Oxford and Peterborough, this Saturday’s game’s are pretty much going to be about going out on the series on a high – have fun, build bonds, develop skills for any interested parties looking to earn a spot on the GB Lions roster for their trip to Canada later this year… though either side could still play upsetters and scupper either of the top two teams’ title hopes if they pull something out of the bag!
For Wembley and Portsmouth, however, it’s a fight to the wire to call themselves Conference Champion!
Portsmouth Dreadnoughts – Peterborough Royals
Oxford Saints – Wembley Stallions
Peterborough Royals – Oxford Saints
Wembley Stallions – Portsmouth Dreadnoughts
Conference standings tiebreakers (in order)
1. Overall Conference points
2. Head-to-head conference points
3. Head-to-head lowest points conceded
(4. Lowest points conceded against conference opponents)*
5. Tie-break shoot-out
* Tie-break 4 is removed from the list as swapped and conceded games has made this too complex