Killick leads Lions defiance
The North team’s trip to Teesside was managed with a relative micro-squad last weekend when just 11 players travelled to Stockton-on-Tees for Round 2 of BAFA Women’s Sapphire Series. A firm encounter with Midlands’ kin, Derby Braves was promised but first up, newcomers Edinburgh Wolves.
From their first round of results we knew the Wolves weren’t here just to make up the numbers, a well-coached outfit complimented by some fine athletes, Scotland’s first women’s side gave the Lions an early wake-up call when they rounded the Lions’ last man and edged away for a sobering score. That said the defending national champions response was immediate in showing their mettle the Lions D gave up little to nothing for the rest of the afternoon.
Working through the plays and the proverbial gears Birmingham’ offense soon started to move, the Lions ability to switch effortlessly from ground to aerial assault kept Edinburgh guessing and whilst they laid some solid tackle foundations, particularly in the mid-field, the continued pressure eventually told with Ruth Matta (#10) and then Hannah Pye (#82) gliding in for their first of the day.
In Coach James Branagh’s absence Safety Nena Killick (#48) was assigned Defensive Coordinator duties for the day and what a job she did, orchestrating her team’s shape and play to subsequently shut down the Wolves; playing with patience and poise the team played smart and the rewards came – linebackers’ Afia Law (#53) and Phoebe Schecter (#56) enforced throughout, picking up 10 tackles, 5 assists, a fumble recovery and 2 safeties between them to keep the Wolves momentum to a minimum.
Back on the field with the ball in hand the Lions offense continued to progress. Its unquestionably fair to say the defending champions were made to earn their yards but with fullback (#30) Steph De-Haven’s power blocking coming to the fore Matta’s second and third rushing scores were not far behind (courtesy of her 159yds established on the ground). Pye and De-Haven swapped rushing touchdowns before Quarterback (#12) Jo Kilby went to the air, Pye and Matta again benefitting.
Cornerback (#17) Laura Moore killed off Edinburgh’s hopes to re-establish themselves with an interception (that would have been a pick-six had it not of been for a legitimate holding call), but not to be denied De-Haven’s subsequent 7yd charge proved a suitable second effort reward. Final score: 60-6.
Next up was Derby’s Braves, a much-improved side this seasons under Head Coach (and GB DB Coach) Gareth Ellison, the Braves meant business and for the first time this tournament the Lions were held to a fruitless foray on their opening drive, Kilby throwing in to traffic for an interception that saw Derby take over on the 5.
With a warmed up Defense taking to the field, Nose Tackle (#78) Aimee Cottingham started as she meant to go on, setting the tone up front (which included two sacks and three tackles for a loss of 9 yds) for the rest of the team to follow, which they did obligingly. With the ball returned to the offense, registering their first points of the game courtesy of a Matta scamper, the Lions soon broke Brave spirits with a volley of scores, all delivered just before half-time; Pye and De-Haven in fine fettle to bring a 21-0 half-time score to proceedings.
Continued pressure in the secondary from Killick, Moore and #28 Nancy Stone kept Derby pinned and with little progress ensuing, Pye and Matta registered further scores (a brace for Pye) courtesy of 60yds and 50yds respectively in the air to put the game safe. Schecter, cameoing on the O, picked up a 2pt PAT for her troubles before the Lions’ 297 offensive yards and 19 tackles secured the win.
The Lions’ tournament MVP award went to Hannah Pye (for 92yds receiving, 45yds rushing and 6 touchdowns).
Image courtesy of, and with thanks to, Jim Messenger.