Manchester Titans Ladies Team Sapphire Series Review

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After a strong showing in the Opal series where the Ladies ranked 6th nationally in their first appearance in BAFA competition, attention switched after December the 8th from the Opal Series which was a flag tournament to the Sapphire Series.

Starting in February this is BAFA’s contact American Football tournament for Ladies and was entering its 4th season. With some members of the team dropping out after flag and new faces coming in, the team once again began the process of training from scratch with no prior contact American Football experience. In December the team was boosted by a Sport England grant which allowed for enough equipment to be bought to allow the team to go straight into training. Training twice a week on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s the Ladies team quickly picked up the basics of the sport and on February 14th were ready to go.

Sapphire 1 – February 14th 2015

Derby The Ladies team made their Sapphire debut against Derby. Scoring on their first drive with a run from Karis Smith, and picking up a further touchdown when quarterback Sian Perry hit Vicky Evans in the end-zone the Ladies matched the experienced Derby team for much of the game. A strong defensive performance, where Lauren Holden was unlucky to have a fumble recovery touchdown called back, kept the game close but Derby eventually ran out 24-12 winners. Game 2 was against the undefeated reigning champions Birmingham A. Against a team who’s roster was full of Great Britain internationals and who would go the entire 2015 season unbeaten and retain their title the Ladies took a tough 73-0 loss.

Sapphire 2 – February 28th 2015

Manchester As with the Opal series, the second tournament saw the Titans host at the AJ Bell Stadium. First up on the day was Sandwell. The Titans started well, scoring on their first play with a run the length of the field from Karis Smith. QB Sian Perry hit Vicky Evans for the extra point and the Titans led 7-0. The Titans defence kept Sandwell out, Emma McDermott (8 tackles) and Emily (Polly) Parkinson (5 tackles) led the way and after a long drive the Titans extended their lead when Perry found Katie Darby in the end zone, Perry found Darby again for the extra point. The Titans defence then forced a safety when the blitzing Lauren Holden sacked the Sandwell QB in her own end zone. Sandwell were able to register a couple scored to get back into the game but strong running from Kelly Strickland got the Titans in range before Smith once again ran home for the score. Perry hit Darby again for the extra point as the Titans picked up their first victory 23-12. Second up was Leeds. The Titans fell behind early but hit straight back after driving downfield and Sian Perry passed to Vicky Evans at the back of the end zone to tie the game. Linebacker Emily Parkinson then picked off the Leeds quarterback and returned for a touchdown to give the Ladies a lead however Leeds were able to level the score 12-12 at half time. Leeds came out strong and scored twice early in the second half to lead 25-12. The Ladies refused to lie down and Perry hit Evans again, this time to go the length of the field to bring the score to 25-18. After a long delay following an injury to the Leeds player, the Titans defence won the ball back when Becky Lord sacked the Leeds QB for a loss and then rushed a pass behind which Emma McDermott and Fern Elliott were able to make strong tackles. With one drive to win the game the Titans moved the ball downfield in 7 plays of running from Karis Smith and Jessica Elliot before a pass to Elliot in the end zone was knocked incomplete in what looked with Pass Interference although no flag game and the score finished 25-18 to Leeds.

Sapphire 3 – March 14th 2015

Leeds Sapphire three saw new opponents in Edinburgh. The Titans clicked into gear running away 31-6 winners. Touchdowns from Karis Smith and Sian Perry running, and passing from Perry to Louise Fitzsimmons, Jessica Elliot and Katie Darby plus conversations added to Abbie Johnson were supported by a strong defensive showing to give the Ladies a second victory. The final game was once again against Leeds and unfortunately the result remained the same with a 18-6 loss. Leeds started strongly scoring three early touchdowns in the first half for an 18-0 lead. The Titans came back with a Smith touchdown on the ground but despite a second half defensive shutout and strong running the Ladies were unable to score again. Finishing with a 2-4 record, the Ladies went into Sapphire finals in the playoffs to finish 7th and below.

Sapphire finals – April 4th 2015

Derby Finals day started with a game against local rivals Chester. The Titans were able to run up a 24-0 half time lead with touchdowns from Karis Smith (x2), Sian Perry and Jessica Elliot. On defence an interception from Emma McDermott kept Chester at bay and the Ladies ran out 24-18 winners. Game two was against Solent, with defences on top the score was 0-0 at half time. Emily Parkinson had an interception return for a TD called back. In the second half the Titans stepped and a TD from Karis Smith with Sian Perry finding Katie Darby for the XP gave them the lead. Safety Fern Elliot then intercepted for a TD to give the Ladies their second victory with a 13-0 score line. Credit to the defence who can away with their first shutout of the season. The final game of the day, and of the season was the play-off for 7th and 8th place. Coming up against Birmingham B the Ladies were engaged in one of the games of the season. Taking an early lead through a now trademark Karis Smith run, Birmingham hit back and ran up a 24-6 lead in the second half. Stand-in QB Danielle James then found receiver Abbie Johnson in the back corner of the end zone to pull a score back and the Titans finished high with Smith heel clicking her was into the end zone for the final score of the season. The game finished 24-18 and the Ladies ranked 8th for the season. The Titans finished as the highest ranked all-rookie team and a 4-5 record.