Last weekend was the first round of the Sapphire Series for the newly formed 2A Division. The teams in the Northern Conference balled out at Chester for what is looking to be one of the most competitive Conferences across the league.
Division 2A North Tournament One Recap
By Libby Davoren
Game 1: Sandwell vs Chester
Sandwell started the game incredibly strong scoring a TD on their opening drive with a cheeky run up the sideline from veteran RB Natalie Talbot. Unable to convert on the PAT, Chester’s offence took to the field. The Romans were immediately pushed backwards by a very dominant Steeler defence. Sydney Green flew through the line, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Chester in their own end zone. Sandwell took the safety, taking the lead early on at 8-0.
After a strong start, Sandwell’s offence struggled to convert for the rest of the game. The defence held strong until Chester’s QB Laura Hughes launched an aerial attack, connecting with Natalie Kelly for an insane one-handed grab. This brought Chester to 1st and goal on the one yard line. Chester came up with the TD after a pass to the back corner of the end zone, again to Natalie Kelly bringing the score to 8-6. Unable to convert on the PAT, the game was incredibly close.
Sandwell’s offence tried to move the ball but they were forced back by the Romans LB Holly Hughes and conceded a safety bringing the game to a tie at 8-8. The teams battled on trying to gain the upper hand but each defence held strong forcing the other to go 4 and out.
The game “ended” in a tie. The officials called each HC over to explain the teams would enter into overtime to determine the winner of the game. Chester’s offence had first attempt but the Steeler defence forced another 4 and out.
Sandwell then took their turn to put points on the board and set up an exact repeat of their opening drive TD with Natalie Talbot running it all the way up the sideline after a fantastic block by fullback Emma Wilkinson. The Steelers took the win ending the game 14-8.*
*Following this result, BAFA are reviewing the win from Sandwell. Only upon submission of the scoreline was it noted that there are no rules for overtime play during a regular Sapphire Series fixture, despite BAFRA officials enforcing this extra period on the day. Indicators are that this game will most likely be recorded as a tie.
Game 2: Teesside vs Sandwell
Next up was the battle of the Steelers. Sandwell went straight into the game after playing Chester and were visibly tired. Teesside’s Siobhan Henry was first to put points on the board with an incredible pick-six, running it almost the entire length of the field.
Teesside’s relentless defence scored yet another pick-six with rookie Natalie Sleeman taking it all the way for the TD. Their athletic QB Emma Taylor ran in the extra point on a keep play bringing this ball game to 13-0.
Sandwell’s offence, undeterred, started to pick up the pace. Each drive making forward progress. Running back Jo Bennett took a battering marching Sandwell down the field. She finally managed to run it all the way for a beautiful toe-touch-TD before being sent on a flying lesson out the side of the end zone by the Teesside defence.
Unable to convert on the PAT but back in the game, Sandwell’s solid defensive unit managed to put points on the board. Linebacker Shannon Perry crashed through the line on a blitz for a safety bringing this game to 13-8.
Sandwell, with time running out, made their last attempt to make it to the end zone. All their efforts fell short with Teesside forcing Jo Bennett out of bounds at the one yard line on 4th down. This was an incredibly hard-fought game by both teams and a thrilling game to watch!
Game 3: Chester vs Teesside
After their win against Sandwell, Teesside took on old foes the Chester Romans. Chester took the lead first with a rushing TD from Rachel Broadhurst. However Teesside’s Siobhan Henry ripped the ball from the running backs hands on the PAT and ran it all the way bringing the game to 6-2. It was clear that this game was going to be a tense one!
The teams took turns bringing in touchdowns with one a piece. Chester’s rookie RB Jo Craze worked the field like a pro bringing the game to 13-9 to the Romans. However Teesside managed to edge the lead with QB Emma Taylor running it almost the entire length of the field for another TD bringing the game to a tight 15-13.
This was one seriously close game. However, towards the last few minutes of play, Chester’s offence ran away with it. The Romans answered back with another rushing touchdown from the experienced Helena Lasok-Smith to take back the lead.
Teesside’s offence, short of time, attempted to get the run to the sideline for a breakaway play, but Chester’s steadfast defence weren’t having any of it. Felicity Cossa forced a safety advancing the Romans lead, the game ending 22-15 to Chester.
The day ended with a win per team, making this one seriously interesting conference! However since it looks likely BAFA may yet overturn Sandwell’s win, this could very well shake up the standings – forcing the Steelers to the bottom of the Conference. Down but not out Sandwell will no doubt be out for revenge…
Next up, this group will join the Southern teams for the cross-conference round in two weeks time at Sandwell.