Lions in pole position after penultimate challenge
Birmingham’s Lions women’s American Football team yesterday secured their place in the National Sapphire Finals – to take place May 3rd at Lichfield RFC – after a dominant display saw the number one ranked side sweep aside all before them.
Birmingham, alongside Derby Braves, Portsmouth Destroyers and Southampton Stags travelled to the University of Hertfordshire, home of the Tornadoes for the penultimate round of the tournament, where up for grabs was seeding points – only the top four teams legible to challenge for the tournament title in a month’s time.
A less than desirable start saw a lethargic Lions eventually power past Southampton’s Stags in their first outing of the day. Benefitting from the presence of GB Tight End Robyn ‘Bo’ Steward, Head Coach Fergus Kehoe’s charges made the Lions work for their win, but following a stern talking to, a much improved second half shored up the Lions efforts accordingly (W 28-0).
Next up was Derby’s Braves. Birmingham had played this fledgling team a number of times by now and despite their small squad the team always proved tricky to negotiate, however a strong showing by wing Laura Moore, Centre Michelle Gwynne and QB Jo Kilby on the offence proved enough of a tonic to progress (W 34-0).
Reaching the third and final game of the afternoon, it was Herts versus Birmingham. Both teams unbeaten in their earlier two games, knew that the result of this game alone meant little (both teams having qualified for the championship tournament) but it was what it would mean psychologically that counted. Herts had never beaten the Lions albeit the last time they met (Rnd 3) Herts had lost in overtime by just a single, solitary point.
Sensing more than just a score-line was needed, but a performance, Coaches Jamie and Brian, kicked off proceedings with the relevant request for intensity and sharpness, and boy, did they get it – the Lions’ defence owning every square inch of 3G from the first to the final whistle in pursuit of victory. GB line-backer Phoebe Schecter, who would be absent from Finals day, enforced the mid-field like a proverbial freight train whilst cornerbacks Jemma Nixon, Nancy Stone and Kat Coleman seemed to disrupt Herts aerial game at will.
With nothing working for the home team, the Lions’ offence took advantage, scores for half-backs Ruth Matta and Emelie Taylor and End Steph De-Haven all a feature. With time slipping through their fingers Herts launched a final series of assaults which eventually bore fruit, QB Sarah Glassborow finding GB’s Amanda Casey in the endzone for a neatly executed score, but it was too little too late as the Lions ran out convincing winners (W 20-6).
Next up: Sapphire Finals Day, from 1pm, Saturday May 3rd at Lichfield RFC, Staffs. Come show your support as the Lions’ ladies bid for the inaugural National Sapphire Championship title.
Image with thanks to Garry Charles Photography and © MyLonelyTreeMedia.