The Sapphire Division One Final saw the tier sliced in two – though not geographically this time, as the top halves of the two conferences competed for the National Championship title, while the third- and fourth-ranked teams from the north and south respectively competed for National Ranking in the Silver tournament.
Sure, the swanky silverware may no longer be available, but that didn’t mean these teams eased off the gas going into these fixtures – there’s been some big rivalries built up over the past two series and all four programmes came in with points to prove!
Division One Silver Finals Recap
Sadly we didn’t have a member of our Women’s Britball office taking part in the Silver Finals, so I’m going to try to make the best I can of the info available!
Round one saw the familiar pairings of North versus South:
Edinburgh Wolves vs Derby Braves
This one had all the hallmarks of being a humdinger of a match up! These two teams had fought one another right down to the wire when competing for ranking in last year’s finals, with the Wolves edging the fixture by a slim margin to clinch the 5th place ranking in 2017.
They’ll followed on from this rare success for the Northern conference over the south with a one point-victory over the Braves back in the Cross Conference tournament earlier this series, and so both teams went into this fixture expecting a back-and-forth duel…
Hence the eventual scoreline being quite a surprise!
The Derby D caused an early turnover, and Braves DB-turned-QB/LB/Captain, Collette Wong, immediately capitalised on the early opportunity. Indeed, this seemed to set a tone, as Wong and the Braves’ D were displaying their strongest form of the season so far when it mattered most, tearing up a Wolves D that had caused them real grief earlier in the series.
Despite some nice stops from Wolves’ Defensive Lineman Ashleigh Bell and Linebacker Lara Connell, and a consolation score from QB Cat McDougall to wideout Jo Elder, the Braves offence could not be denied – posting up their biggest scoreline of the series so far in a 43-6 victory to open up their Final tourney.
FT: Edinburgh Wolves 6-43 Derby Braves
East Kilbride Pirates vs Hertfordshire Tornadoes
It’s fair to say both these teams entered this matchup frustrated with their series so far.
For the Tornadoes, it was the first time they found themselves without even a shot at the National Championship title, after regular series losses to the Warriors saw the London side assume Hert’s role in the top half of the competition.
Across from them, the Pirates were still without a win on the series, and so despite steadily improving performances from each tournament to the next, the Pirates were eager to make their mark in this final opportunity to ball out!
As it turned out, the Tornadoes would not be denied. Despite travelling with an understrength roster and still carrying some injuries, the southern side’s offence had more than enough pace to push them past the Pirates, 36-0, and set up a 5th place playoff against familiar faces, the Derby Braves.
FT: East Kilbride Pirates 0-36 Hertfordshire Tornadoes
7th Place Playoff
Edinburgh Wolves vs East Kilbride Pirates
Sapphire’s two Scots sides set to square off once again, competing for seventh place honours.
Edinburgh had gotten the better of the first meeting between these two teams way back in Tournament One, but it was certainly the Pirates best performance of the series – could they go one better at a second time of asking?
Certainly short memories was going to be crucial coming into this game. Both teams had taken big losses in the first round of the final tourney, but Edinburgh in particular were smarting having lost the opportunity to compete for the 5th place Ranking they achieved last season.
Would they be able to shake off the loss and bounce back against their ‘local’ rivals?
Well, from the first half it was tough to tell. Both sides pushed each other hard as EKP’s elusive Quarterback caused problems for the Wolves D, leaving the score tied up at 6-6 at the half, and the weather on the turn.
As the snow began to pile on, the Wolves’ effective ground game began to pay dividends. Lynsey Llewellyn and the Wolves offence punched in a score to take the lead following a pick from Fiona Lynch. Despite losing starting QB, Cat McDougall to an injury, the second half was all Edinburgh as they extended their lead on the following drive. Emily Mullen capped off a dominant half, rushing the length of the field to cap off a 27-6 win for the Wolves.
5th Place Playoff
Hertfordshire Tornadoes vs Derby Braves
This one was a doozy!
The two southern sides had each taken dominant wins from their round one fixtures, and with a fifth place ranking on the line the two teams met for a second time this series in some bizarre back-and-forth weather conditions, that emulated an incredible back-and-forth fixture.
The Braves were feeling confident, coming into the game off their strongest performance of the series so far, and having quashed the ghosts of their 2017 disappointment with a comprehensive win against the Wolves.
As such, they hit the ground running in this fixture, quickly opening up an early lead as the weather swung back and forth between sunshine and snow!
The Braves headed to halftime with a two-score lead, but the second half saw the Hertfordshire Defence step up their game, and repeated four-and-outs followed the break for the Braves, allowing the Tornadoes back into the game.
GB wideout Oli Davies was on dangerous form during the second half, outpacing to the Derby D to put in essential scores and with the weather worsening heading into the final phase of the game, the Tornadoes took a three-point lead that was enough to secure them the 5th place ranking!
- 5th – Hertfordshire Tornadoes
- 6th – Derby Braves
- 7th – Edinburgh Wolves
- 8th – East Kilbride Pirates
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!