Lions’ ladies crowned first Sapphire Champions
The Birmingham Lions roared their way to the first ever Sapphire Series National Championship with an exhilarating 46-28 win over the Hertfordshire Tornadoes in the final.
The Lions took the trophy for the first time after an incredibly successful first year of the Sapphire Series, with record numbers of women and teams participating.
Birmingham entered the final tournament as the number one seed and faced a Derby team who managed to sneak into the national finals as the fourth seed. Ruth Matta scored the first touchdown in the battle of the North before a botched Derby handoff resulted in a safety, presenting Birmingham with an early nine point lead. Quarterback Jo Kilby hit Matta for her second touchdown before Emelie Taylor ran in to increase the lead to 22. Another Derby safety and Matta’s third touchdown of the half gave the Lions an insurmountable 30-0 lead going into the break.
Derby continued to fight hard but after Laura Moore’s rushing touchdown, safety Nancy Stone stripped Hannah Odam to run in for yet another defensive touchdown for the Great Britain running back. Emelie Taylor put the final nail in the Braves’ coffin with a late touchdown, sending the Lions to the national final on the back of a 50-0 shutout win.
[Hertfordshire Tornadoes beat Kingston Horse in the other semi-final in dramatic overtime. Kingston beat Derby in the third-fourth position play-off].
The attention of those in attendance and those keeping track via social media at home turned to the National Final, as the Hertfordshire Tornadoes looked to take down the number one seed Birmingham Lions.
The game starting out at a lightning fast pace with Ruth Matta scampering in to give Birmingham the early advantage. The Lions doubled their lead on the next drive, as Nancy Stone once again recovered a fumble and returned it the short distance for a touchdown. The Lions intercepted Hertfordshire deep in their own territory on their next drive and Laura Moore made them pay for it as the Lions stormed to an early 21-0 lead.
But Hertfordshire weren’t going to give up that easily. After a great catch by Hollie Whiting, Glassborow found center Amy Schiller for the touchdown to ease the deficit. The scoring bonanza continued when Moore added her second rushing touchdown, only for Schiller to follow suit on the very next drive with her second receiving touchdown.
The Lions and Tornadoes managed to find their ways into the end zone again before the half. Jo Kilby showed off her cannon arm, putting the ball on a dime for Ruth Matta’s first touchdown of the game. Hertfordshire, as they had developed a tendency to do now, replied straight away, with Glassborow’s third passing TD of the half, this one to Jess Anderson.
The half time break gave both teams a chance to recover from the 34-20 slobber knocker, with messages from both camps being that the game was far from over. After the 54 point first half, both defenses were intent on proving their potency as the second half started off with a three drive scoring drought.
Kilby and the Lions offense put the game to bed with their second passing touchdown of the day with GB center Michelle ‘Deli’ Gwynne getting on the scoreboard. One final Glassborow touchdown ended up being a consolation score as the Lions ran out 46-28 winners, becoming the first team to hoist the Sapphire Series trophy.
Image courtesy of, and with thanks to, Andy M Neale, © Whizzyfingers Photography.