The 2017 Sapphire Series got off to a flying start on Saturday with both hard-fought wins and blow-out losses. Oxford Saints looked the part for their first competitive games, clad in matching blue jerseys and tan pants, whilst Peterborough Royals looked equally fly in their red Diamond Series jerseys.
New Kids on the Block
In their first game, against Iceni Spears, the Saints looked like a very well drilled team, at times making plays that could be described as textbook. The Saints went 6-0 up almost immediately, with Iceni struggling to bring their receivers to ground. Iceni’s Victoria Ware proved herself to be a very strong player on both sides of the ball; her tackles are effective, and as QB she has an arm that can certainly get the ball downfield. Unfortunately, she was let down occasionally by her receivers who weren’t always where they needed to be. Touchdowns for Iceni Spears came from Megan Thomas and Kate Sanders, whilst the swift-footed Josie McInerney scored on behalf of Oxford Saints. With 8 seconds left in the game, Oxford QB took a knee to end it all, but unfortunately was inside the end zone at the time, giving the Spears an additional 2 points.
Final score: 18 – 14 to Oxford Saints.
Blown Out of the Water
Whilst Oxford Saints showed themselves to be well-drilled against the Iceni Spears, they struggled to get themselves on the board against the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts. Their lack of competition experience proved itself to be their downfall, as Portsmouth knew exactly where to put themselves to foil any Oxford plan. A well-executed reverse from the Dreadnoughts’ offense bamboozled the Saints’ defense, and Portsmouth’s Lucy Moss took it all the way to the end zone. By half time, Portsmouth were up 25 – 0. The second half didn’t go any better for Oxford, who were plagued by fumbles, and off-target snaps. It will be good to see how Oxford develop as a team throughout the season, especially now they have a few games under their belts.
Final Score: 43 – 0 to Portsmouth Dreadnoughts.
Ultimately, Iceni were let down by their small travelling squad. Contact football is a tiring sport, and playing two games in a row with only 7 players took its toll. Their second game, against Peterborough Royals wasn’t as close. Despite the game being called early due to injury, the Conference newcomers managed to rack up an astonishing 40 points. Peterborough ran rings around the exhausted Iceni, who barely had a 10-minute break to recover after their defeat to Oxford. The Spears defense once again took a while to warm up, letting in a touchdown right off the bat. The Royals first touchdown was followed almost immediately by another, however this one was called back by the officials due to a delay of game on the snap. The touchdowns came thick and fast for Peterborough, but so did the penalties. False start after false start pushed the Royals almost into their own end zone. This didn’t seem to matter much as Michelle Bark carried the ball the full length of the field for Peterborough’s third touchdown of the game. Iceni’s Emma Thomas did a fantastic job of keeping pace with her, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to make the tackle. Following a head-to-head collision just after half time, Iceni Spears were down to four players, at which point the officials called the game. Peterborough Royals showed great sportsmanship as they all made their way over to the Iceni sideline to shake the hands of those players too injured to join the handshake line.
Final Score: 40 – 0 to Peterborough Royals.
Filled With Dread
Conference favorites, Wembley Stallions started their Sapphire Series with a game against emerging powerhouse Portsmouth Dreadnoughts. Both teams showed themselves to be comprised of strong players, but in the end Portsmouth proved themselves the stronger side. Wembley defense laying some satisfying hits on any member of the Dreadnoughts offence in their way, whilst Stallions’ Ny-Tarshka needing two or more players to bring her down. Portsmouth themselves had equally powerful legs, with one player dragging what seemed like most of the Wembley team into the end zone from the half way line. This was a game filled with fast-paced plays, flashy spin moves, and the sort of tackling that makes a defensive coach very happy. Unfortunately, aside from a safety in the first quarter, Wembley failed to get into the end zone.
Final Score: 13 – 2 to Portsmouth Dreadnoughts.
Buoyed by their earlier success over Iceni, Peterborough Royals started strong in their second game, against Wembley Stallions. Initially, the Royals did not look like a team new to tackle competition; they were well organized, and reacted quickly to whatever Wembley threw at them, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. The Stallions offense kept putting up scores (although a few of them did get called back for assorted penalties). Touchdowns for Wembley came from Chloe and Lina, with a pick six being called back after a bit of pre-touchdown showboating.
Final Score: 21 – 0 to Wembley Stallions
Some interesting results to come out of Round One of this year’s Sapphire Series. It will be very interesting to see how things develop as the new teams get more competitive experience, and the veteran teams