Following a highly successful off-season recruitment campaign, led by QB Natalie Parker, last Saturday saw the Lions host neighbouring Sandwell Steelers for a friendly game, aimed at developing the team’s rookies (as well as supporting the Steelers in their 7s ambition).

“In what was a hard fought and sometimes bruising encounter, today’s development game with the Sandwell Steelers provided valuable experience for the new and up and coming Lions’ players” offered Head Coach Jamie Kilby.

The team’s defence started strong, with Great Britain flag exponent and rookie Defensive Back Ellie Thorpe recovering a fumble off the Steelers’ opening play to score the Lions’ very first touchdown of the day. Setting the pace for the rest of the game the Lions’ D didn’t flinch, halting the Steelers’ offence from obtaining a first down on their second possession and on repeated drives to boot.

With GB QB Sydney Green very effective at Linebacker for the Steelers, the Lions’ offence led by Parker failed to score on its first few possessions, despite some valuable yards gained by rookie running back Ashleigh ‘Mash’ Aiston, including a well-executed screen play halfway through the first half.

Meanwhile the Lions’ defence, mostly made up of rookies, remained ruthless with many rookies recording their first ever tackles, such as Linebacker Tamara Francis and Defensive Tackle Katie Carroll, to name a few, as well as Thorpe, who was continuing to make impact in the Lions’ secondary breaking up a critical pass at an opportune time. In the middle, Linebacker Ciara Pinnington put the numbers up, severely disrupting the Steelers’ run game throughout.

The Lions’ returners weren’t completely left out of the mix, with the return of Safety Nena Killick and Linebacker Afia Law, taking some reps – Law scoring the Lions’ second touchdown of the game after intercepting a lofted pass from Sandwell’s QB. Second year DB Wiktoria Jörren, also impressive, has continued to improve across all facets, and will no doubt be poised to make an impact in the Lions’ secondary this season.

It was just before half time that the offence managed to score its first touchdown, a long run by Parker, proving too much for the cover; GB flag WR Jodie Harris securing the two point conversion with a nice catch. Half time: Lions 20 – 0 Steelers.

The second half saw another set of rookies shining, as Wide Receiver Jess Hastings recorded her first reception and the Lions’ D-Line applied the pressure up front, forcing a fumble which was recovered for a safety, courtesy of Lydia Campbell. The home side’s offensive line, who oft never get the credit they deserve, produced an impressive performance throughout, with important contributions registered courtesy of both returners and rookies alike, including a strong first start from Phoebe Mortimer.

Parker, who displayed strong leadership throughout, helped facilitate an effective display of Aiston’s natural ability but alas no further scores were coming as the Steelers’ defense held firm. Lions 22 – 0 Steelers.

Overall, the game was a great learning experience for both sides: “The Steelers made the team work for every inch of progress, first games are always a pressure, but the players proved they could rise to the occasion” offered Head Coach Kilby. “A lot of the rookies really improved their reading of the game and were able to execute,” commented DB Coach Jason Peace.

Our thanks go to Sandwell for a good game and may we take this opportunity to wish them all the best for the season ahead; our appreciation also must go to Director of Football Wayne Hill and Men’s Programme Coach Laurence Matthews for refereeing.

Report c/o Céline Bisson with thanks.

Image courtesy of Garry Charles Photography © MyLonelyTreeMedia.

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