Round One gave us some quality entertainment. The Portsmouth Dreadnoughts were the only team to win both their games, despite having a core of mostly rookie players. Newcomers Oxford Saints showed they were up for a fight, and top seed Wembley learned it wasn’t going to be easy maintaining that ranking.
This weekend brings Round Two to Peterborough, where the relative tenderfeet will look to secure wins on their home turf. Following their win over the Iceni Spears in Round One, the Royals are going to be pushing hard for a repeat performance. The small wrinkles that drew penalty after penalty are likely to have been ironed out under the watchful eye of former Pro-Player-turned-Head Coach Benita Grant-Booker.
Following Round One, the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts were the only team to come away without a loss. We spoke to the Dreadnoughts’ Head Coach James Chard about what we can expect from the Conference leaders this time around.
“If we want to continue to be successful, then we have to be a much better football team […] this Saturday. There is no weak team in this division, and whoever we play is going to give us a very tough game”.
It is clear that each teams’ recruitment drive was successful, as even the more established teams feature many new faces. The Wembley Stallions started the Sapphire Series with a large cohort of rookies. Now that those newcomers have tasted contact competition, it will be interesting to see how the season develops for them. Captain Gracie Hilbourne spoke with us:
“We’ve worked hard over the last week, watching a lot of tape and identifying areas we can improve on and areas where we really worked well”. As a team, they are “looking to try and continue and build a winning streak […] going into the second round feeling confident and ready to put [their] stamp on the division.”
Following between reduced to only four active players during Round One, the Iceni Spears are looking to use Round Two as a development opportunity. They have a small travelling squad, with a number of players very new to the game with four of their seven or so players having never played full-contact before the 2017 series. Two of the remaining players are only just returning from season-ending injuries. Given this profile, Acting Offensive Coach Jamie Fowle says they are using every game as an opportunity for experience.
“[The Spears] are at the bottom of [their] improvement curve and […] are only going to get better. […] We’ll be looking to continue our development, compete hard and see where we are at the final whistle”.
Complete newcomers Oxford Saints were jubilated at winning their first game during round one. Their loss to Portsmouth did little to bring them down. Much like the Royals, Oxford are going to be fighting to move up the rankings. The rookie team are likely to return much more well-drilled, and the technical errors that tripped them up during Round One greatly reduced.
Teams have now had the opportunity to review game film and analyze overall performance. It can be expected that the games in Round Two will be more technical, with coaches adapting plays to foil the plans of specific opponents.
If one’s thing’s certain, James Chard is right – no matter who’s playing, it’s going to be a tough game.
Tournament Two Fixtures
- Portsmouth Dreadnoughts – Iceni Spears
- Oxford Saints – Peterborough Royals
- Wembley Stallions – Oxford Saints
- Peterborough Royals – Portsmouth Dreadnoughts
- Iceni Spears – Wembley Stallions