Manchester Titans Ladies Team Opal Series Review

In August 2014 the Titans decided to add a new team to its ranks and introduced Ladies’ American Football to Manchester.

Starting with a 1st rookie camp in August there were 6 girls down to training on a warm night at AJ Bell Stadium. Over the coming weeks a mixture of the Titans recruitment channels and word of mouth saw the size of the squad swell to over 30 girls training every Wednesday night. Demand from the Ladies saw additional sessions added on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The Ladies lined up for a practice game of flag against the Titans Youth squad and were in a position to enter the Opal Series, BAFA’s national flag American Football competition which started in October.

Opal 1 – October 25th 2014

Northampton The Titans entered the 2014 Opal series with a squad of Rookie players, none of whom had played American Football before in any capacity. The first game was against Gloucester, three touchdowns and a strong defensive showing gave the Titans a debut victory by a score of 19-12. Next up were Portsmouth, the Titans again scored three times while holding their opponents to only 2 meaning they picked up a second successive victory by a score of 19-14. Winning both their group games qualified the team for the tournament final where they met defending champions Coventry, although they fell to a 46-7 loss they found themselves ranked third nationally after their first outing.

Opal 2 – November 8th 2014

Manchester Opal 2 was the Titans home tournament, hosting in total 8 teams at AJ Bell Stadium. This time there were three group games to be played, first up was against Teesside and the Ladies were able to build on a strong defensive performance to pick up a 13-7 victory. Game 2 was against Gloucester who they had met in Opal 1. This time the Ladies offense clicked into gear as they put up 4 scores to once again pick up the win with a 25-18 score line. The final group game was against Sheffield, strong performances from the Offense and Defence saw them run out comfortable winners 27-13. Having won all their group games for the second tournament in the row the Titans made the tournament final. This time they came up against Leeds, who were to become fierce rivals and something of a bogey team. A hard fought game went the way of Leeds by a single point as the Ladies lost out by 14-13. However consecutive second places saw the Ladies pick up valuable ranking points and found themselves ranked 3rd nationally after two tournaments.

Opal 3 – November 22nd 2014

Teesside The final ranking tournament was up in Teesside. First up the Ladies produced their best display of the Opal Series hammering Derby 43-6 drawing plaudits from many of the watching crowd for their impressive display of both running and passing along with very tight defence. Game 2 was against familiar foe Leeds, trailing 13-6 in the closing stages a last minute touchdown and conversation meant the game finished 13-13 and went to overtime to decide who progressed to the final. Leeds were able to get the best of the Ladies courtesy of the first sudden death overtime score. In unfamiliar territory of being in the 3rd/4th place play off the Ladies met Nottingham, despite leading at half time the overtime game against leads caught up with them and Nottingham were able to pull out a 32-15 victory giving the team a 4th place finish. The Ladies performances in the three ranking events had earned them enough points to be ranked 5th nationally and earn an invite to the National finals day as one of the top 6 ranked teams in the country.

Opal finals – December 6th 2014

Nottingham Having started just three months earlier with 6 players and no experience, the Rookie team found themselves in the National finals, a huge achievement for the team and all of the girls who had played along the way. First up was another fixture against reigning champions Coventry, a slight improvement on the result from Opal 1 saw a 42-6 reverse against the team who would remain unbeaten all season and go on to retain their title. Second up was against Teesside, unable to repeat their victory from Opal 2, the offense stuttered and the Ladies fell to a second loss 14-0. This meant the final game was a play-off for 5th and 6th place against the London Warriors. A back and forth game ended up with London winning 26-12.

After four tournaments and with over 35 Ladies appearing for the team, the Rookies finished ranked 6th nationally, a huge achievement for a team that hadn’t existed back in August.