Lions maintain Series’ lead
Round 3 of BAFA’s Sapphire Series saw the Lions generate some distance between themselves and the chasing pack as they rounded off a good day, taking two wins from two, to propel the reigning champions to six games unbeaten, with just two games and one round to go.
First up for the Lions was the tournament’s host side, Hertfordshire Tornadoes.
Having lost to Birmingham in round one (36-10) it was essential that last years’ runners-up’s turned around the result in order to stay in title contention, however it was unfortunate that in response the Lions were in no kind of convivial mood and as such, despite Herts starting the game well, the Lions exorcised Hertfordshire’s best laid plans and subsequent first drive in unequivocal fashion.
On the converse, the Lions’ offense’s first play fired high and proud: Tail-Back Ruth Matta took it 35yds to the end zone, with no small thanks to WR Hannah Pye’s devastating crack block in tandem with Fullback Steph De-Haven’s powerful lead. De-Haven subsequently converting, untouched across the whitewash, from 5yds, for a further 2pts.
Corners’ Nancy Stone and Sophie Etheridge sat with discipline for most of the game, setting the edges to mitigate Herts’ jet-sweeps, whilst Safety Nena Killick, with a calm but firm authority, policed from the back allowing those in front – D-Line’s Aimee Cottingham, Mena Fombo and Alex Wadeson – to focus their brutality ceaselessly on the Hertfordshire front line; anything else was left to the domain of the Linebackers – who between Laura Moore, Alice-Mary Smith and Phoebe Schecter – limited the home side to a handful of first downs and just 6 points for their efforts.
To make matters worse the Lions’ offense, retaking the field, dropped another killer blow off their second drive’s opening play, care of Matta (again), before scores rained in from Pye (9yd catch), a rushing hat-trick from Quarterback Kilby, a similar third for Matta before Receiver Rachel Trim – with her first well-deserved Lions points of the season, grabbed a neat 5yd catch for a two point conversion – and then, Pye, concluded proceedings with a final 19yd aerial connection with Kilby for a 53pt offensive haul; Cottingham adding a safety to conclude the Lions’ offensive.
222yds on the ground, with an understated 38yds in the air, owed everything to the power and poise of the Lions’ Offensive Line – Michelle Gwynne, Elisha Huxtable and Lauren Mills – all taking well-deserved pats on backs, ably supported by Poppy Forshaw-Perring and Katie Davenport. The Lions’ defense continued unabated all game, Smith and Etheridge, leading the tackle assist count (with 10 and 8 respectively) whilst Shecter’s four solo tackles, five assists, a forced fumble and separate recovery, also proving ultimately damming for any form of Hertfordshire hope. Final score, Birmingham 55, Hertfordshire 6.
The second game of the day saw the Lions face Derby’s Braves for the first time this season. Having pulled out of round two due to amassed injuries, the East Midlands’ outfit were back with a small but fired up squad who challenged the Lions with a zone defense the reigning champions were certainly slow to react to.
Guilty of trying to thread the ball long to an awaiting flat four it was yards underneath that eventually paid dividends with the rushing game affecting most of the final, mortal blows (Kilby grabbing two touchdowns from 6 carries for 70yds whilst Matta tore up the turf for 105 yrds (off 12 carries) for an additional score). With fullback De-Haven in fine fettle, grabbing 19 of the unglamorous yards from 3 carries, a deftly caught 2pt conversion from short range was just reward for her industrious afternoon. With 20pts collected by the O, the Defense put matters to bed with an unfettered display of strength and guild – first Stone picked the Brave’s QB for a return with interest, before continued pressure brought about two safeties (one for Moore, one for Shecter), a combined sack courtesy of Moore and Cottingham, a second interception, this time Schecter again getting in on the action before Moore, bristlingly busy all game, forced the fumble to allow the Lions’ offense to see out the game.
Team MVP honours were awarded to Wide Receiver Hannah Pye and for the Defense…the whole of the defense…for their virtuoso performance in not one but two games, from start to finish.
The Lions next and last game of the season is at home, at the Metchley 3G pitches, on Saturday 16th April. Join the team from 1pm to see if they can lift BAFA’s national trophy for an unprecedented third year in a row.
Image with thanks to Garry Charles Photography and © MyLonelyTreeMedia.