Smith stars for the South

Smith stars for the South

Last Saturday the Lions’ South team travelled down to the University of Hertfordshire for the second round of BAFA’s national Sapphire Series.

Having gained a few new faces since the last tournament courtesy of Cornerback Helen Gent (#35) and Receiver Maggs Rees( #43) – the Lions arrived in good time and with good numbers for their first challenge of the day, game 1 against the (2-0) London Warriors.

Early exchanges saw both teams’ offenses struggle to get on top and whilst the battle of the defenses ensued Warriors eventually broke the deadlock when an error in the Lions’ secondary allowed London to capitalise.

Punishing tackles from captain Alice Smith (#50) and the emerging Hannah Watson (#38) and Chloe Spalding (#39) applied the relevant pressure to return the ball to #19 QB Laura Thompson-Stevens effective hands’ where, in the second half, following some strong carries from #29 and #84 Caz Goodman and Celine Bisson respectively, a slick counter was set-up for #89 Sophie Etheridge to gallop into the end-zone.

With Birmingham nudging in front courtesy of a well-executed PAT it was all to play for in the remaining minutes but the upset of the South was not meant to be, London piled on the pressure grabbing a safety when it mattered and sneaking one more score to make the game safe. Final score: 15-8.

Taking confidence from a well-contested first encounter the blooded rookies went into their second and final fixture of the afternoon against Solent/Iceni knowing only a win was good enough.

A one-sided victory was delivered by the Lions in their first encounter with this small but bold side in round one so the team knew where their baseline was and went about their task with much efficiency. 164yds on the ground and 4 touchdowns for the human wrecking ball that is Goodman teed the team up nicely, whilst Etheridge’s 43 combined yards and 2 touchdowns sealed the deal, however contributions from debutante Rees (53 combined yards off 4 carries and 3 catches) showed how quickly the Lions as a team were able to assimilate players into performing.

With 40pts scored the offense had done their job but it was the defense that continued to shine – forced fumbles (by Smith) and recoveries (by #76 Katie Davenport), broken plays, tackles for losses and a growing tally of tackle assists (courtesy of #77 Rin Voigt-Hill, Gent and  #31 Amy Goodwin) kept Solent muted throughout and whilst battling throughout the game, playing both offence and defence, the heavy hits from the Lions’ D finally took their toll and the game was called early. Final score: 40-0.

Big shout out’s go to #45 Aneesah Raqeeb who registered her first solo tackle, Rees and Gent for their strong maiden showings, but also to captain Alice Smith for her outstanding MVP performance (across both games picking up 18 tackles (for a loss of 13yds), 11 tackle assists and one fumble recovery to mark the proverbial cherry on top.

Well done team (and thanks to Emelie Taylor for her report contribution).

Image courtesy of, and with thanks to, Andy Neale and Whizzyfingers Photography.

Birmingham Lions Linebacker Alice Smith