#Sapphire18 | Division 2A Finals Recap

In, at times, blizzard conditions, six programmes descended on Sandwell to compete for the inaugural 2A Division Championship. With all six teams in the running for the title, despite the low, low temperatures, expectations were competition was going to be hot!

 

Division 2A Finals Recap

By Anna Young

Wildcard: Cardiff Valkyries V Chester Romans

Familiar rivals from the previous cross-conference round which saw an incredibly close score, with Chester sneaking the win, the Valkyries were ready to give it their all to secure a place in the semi-finals.

With some great deep pass receptions from Ruth Lewis and Elleanor O’Connell, Cardiff were able to move the ball close to the end zone. Receiving the snap, Line-backer turned Running Back Zoe John, scored the first touchdown of the game. John was able to rush into the end zone and secure the PAT to put Cardiff in front. This was no easy fight, as the Roman’s defence were proving to be a chaotic force in keeping the Valkyries out.

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Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

Cardiff were able to put another score on the board with QB Kira Walker, running in a 30-yard touchdown. Walker was showing form with more deep passes to Walker and O’Connell, giving Cardiff a chance to score again. But the Romans defence kicked into action, recovering a fumble on the 1-yard line to ultimately change the course of the game.

The turnover gave Chester the chance to open up the field and demonstrate their strong run game, resulting in multiple scores. Despite the best efforts of Cardiff’s defence, Chester began to dominate to secure their place in the semi-finals against Portsmouth.

Final score: Cardiff Valkyries 13 – Chester Romans 32

 

Wildcard: Wembley Stallions V Teesside Steelers

On the opposite field saw the first head to head between Teesside and Wembley in #Sapphire18. In a frantic start to the game, both teams forced safety’s in their opening defensive stands to level the score at 2-2 within minutes.

The Stallions defence continued to put pressure on their opponents leading to a fumble, which rookie Cornerback Zadie Ward recovered for the first TD of the game. The Stallions D didn’t let up, forcing another two safeties to lead 13-2, with nose tackle Tika Taylor and defensive end Delta Npuna putting continuous pressure on the Centre and QB.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sport and outdoor
Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

Both teams shared good offensive drives, moving the ball in what were very difficult conditions as the weather began to worsen. Teeside QB and league MVP nominee, Emma Taylor, guided the offence in an attempt to close the gap. A successful drive led to a Teesside score, taking the teams to tight 13-9 at the half.

During the second half the weather continued to deteriorate, making it difficult conditions for both sides of the ball. Late on, the Stallions offence managed to kill-off the game with a TD from Running back Angie Sowerby, to finish the game 19-9 and see the Stallions move through to the semi-finals.

Final score: Wembley Stallions 19-9 Teesside Steelers

 

Semi-Final: Wembley Stallion V Sandwell Steelers

The first game between these two teams saw Sandwell come away with a 27-12 victory following a tough battle. The stakes were high as both teams looked to secure their place in the final in their first ever 7-a-side season.

Stallions offence started strong, with an easy score in the opening drive that included an impressive deep pass to set up the score. Stallions led 7 – 0. The Stallions defence, motivated by a strong start, took to the field and prevented the Steelers from reaching a first down with some big tackles and strong sideline containment.

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Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

However, the Sandwell defence stepped up the pressure on the line forcing an inaccurate pass which gave linebacker Shannon Perry the opportunity to pick the ball. Making the most of their field position, the Sandwell offence utilised their run game to close down the yards to the goal line, ultimately resulting in a TD from Nat Talbot and PAT conversion from Sydney Green.

The Stallions defence continued to put pressure on the Steelers run game, closing all the gaps with numerous tackles being made close to the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately for the Stallions though, Shannon Perry was able to pick the ball again, this time for 6.

Stallions tried desperately to return the ball to their offence with added pressure on the line, but the Steelers managed another score and the game finished 27 – 7 to the Steelers, who clearly showed how their physicality could ensure their ticket to the final.

Final score: Sandwell Steelers 7-27 Sandwell Steelers 

 

Semi-Final: Portsmouth Dreadnoughts V Chester Romans

With no doubt that the Dreadnoughts headed into the finals as favourites having gone undefeated in previous rounds, the pressure was on for them to set the tone in their first game.

Portsmouth started their championship bid well with three rushing TDs for Amber Perry, and a pick 6 from Jess Edgecombe.

The Dreadnoughts shut out the Romans and confidently entered into the final.

Final score: Portsmouth Dreadnoughts 26 vs Chester Romans 0

 

5th/6th playoff – Teesside Steelers V Cardiff Valkyries

Another first for these two teams, who have only met in previous 5:5 battles.

Cardiff’s offence started well but Teeside’s defence certainly proved to be on point, with double coverage on the deep threats meaning Cardiff were unable to convert their yards into the end zone. Teeside’s defence continued to put in a strong performance with pat downs, and despite some great catches from Cardiff, they were unable to get the score.

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Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

Teeside clearly hit their stride as the points started to add up, despite the Valkyries introducing a 5-line defence. Teeside continued to show their prowess in the run and pass game and finished their season on a high with a 24 – 0 win.

Cardiff Valkyries 0 – Teeside Steelers 24

 

3rd/4th Playoff – Wembley Stallions V Chester Roman’s

Both teams were facing their third game of the day, an understandably difficult challenge for even the fittest of teams, but nevertheless they were raring to go with the last 40 minutes of the season ahead of them and the chance to secure the final place on the top side of the divisional standings.

Stallions defence started strong, shutting down Chester’s run game to ensure they didn’t achieve a first down. And although well into their second hour of football in one day, the Stallions defence weren’t ready to let up. A pick from Safety Anna Young put the Stallions offence back on the field, less than 15 yards from the end zone.

Image may contain: people playing sport, american football and outdoor
Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

Some big tackles and plenty of pressure on the line from the Roman’s defence meant the Stallions returned to their pass game and two more touchdowns for Chester followed. With the score over the 30 mark, the game was sealed with the Stallions taking third place. A competitive battle from both teams who played 120 minutes of football in one day.

Wembley Stallions 33 – Chester Romans 0

 

Final 1st/2nd – Portsmouth Dreadnoughts V Sandwell Steelers

In their first meeting of #Sapphire18, the pressure was on to see who would come away with gold and the Championship title.

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Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

Portsmouth came out strong and made a statement by stopping Sandwell from achieving a first down on their opening drive, despite some great run plays. In a game of constant back and forth, it was then time for the Dreadnoughts to show what their run game could do. But some great gap defence allowed Sandwell to return the favour and stop Portsmouth from achieving a first down. Despite this, Amber Perry was able to find the space and convert for the first rushing TD of the game.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor
Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

Both teams were able to score two touchdowns each in the first half, but Sandwell ended the half on top by preventing any PAT conversions. The half finished 14-12 with all to play for in the second.

Both teams clearly learnt and adapted to what they had experienced of each other in the first half as the scores began to dry up.

However, Portsmouth managed to gain the lead late on via a deep pass from Iiona Sennett that found the hands of Lucy Moss, who was able to run in for the score. Despite conceding a score, Sandwell denied Portsmouth the extra point.

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Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

With moments left in the game the pressure was on Sandwell’s pass game to find the end zone, but Portsmouth were able to break up the pass as the ball approached the hands of

Portsmouth were then able to run down the clock and end the game to secure their win and Division 2A Championship title.

Portsmouth Dreadnoughts 18 – Sandwell Steelers 14

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Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

Head Coach James Chard from the Dreadnoughts shared:

“We are absolutely delighted to have finished the season as undefeated champions. We have been training twice a week since last May to give us this opportunity and the result makes it all worth it. Our players and coaching staff have worked so hard and we couldn’t be happier. I would like to congratulate Sandwell on an excellent season, they were an incredibly tough opponent who I am sure will continue to grow into a perennial contender.”

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Photography (c) Andy Neale, Whizzyfingers Photography

Overall, every team in Division 2A successfully showed their ability to step up to the 7-a-side game and put in competitive performances throughout the season. We’re excited to see how these teams will develop during the off-season and look forward to seeing some breakthrough performances in #Sapphire2019.

Final standings for Division 2A:

  •  1st – Portsmouth Dreadnoughts
  • 2nd – Sandwell Steelers
  • 3rd – Wembley Stallions
  • 4th – Chester Romans
  • 5th – Teesside Steelers
  • 6th – Cardiff Valkyries

 

*Thanks to Zoe John and Rob Amor for game commentary.


The Finals Tournaments wrap up another incredible Sapphire Series, and yet another step forward in the Women’s game, with more teams competing than ever before.

With the growth of the seven-a-side game, what does the future hold for #Sapphire19? Might we see teams competing at different levels? An expansion of the top tier to include impressive Div 2 outfits like Portsmouth and Sandwell? And how far off are we from a 9-a-side Series?

With Diamond Series still ahead in 2018, it’s clear the British Women’s game is still all steam ahead at the conclusion of Sapphire 2018!

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1