Round 3 saw Cardiff travel to Kent for the first time, to take on familiar foes Kent and Wembley – who have been our opponents each round so far! With some players not being able to recover from injuries in time to travel, Cardiff ended up taking 10 to the round so Iron-woman football was the order of the day again. Not only that, but the personnel available meant the week was spent installing a new defence along with new calls and responsibilities.
Cardiff V Wembley
With Wembley first up, this new defence was always going to be tested against a team with a powerful running attack. And so it proved to be with Wembley taking early advantage of some defensive confusion to jump out to an early lead. As the game progressed the Valkyries began to settle in to the game and start to get a feel for the defence resulting in some stops.
On the other side the offence began to move the ball but unfortunately couldn’t find that little extra to punch it in. At the end of the first half came a big turning point for the day when the Valkyries starting QB Kira Walker was knocked out of the game, and ultimately the rest of the tournament. With just a couple of minutes before the start of the second half it was time to put in a new QB and also make major changes to the offence. Moving from her starting WR role into QB, rookie Laura Johnson went behind centre for the first time ever. Down to just 2 remaining other skill position players, Cardiff were also forced to go to a 4 woman line for the remainder of the day. Despite having just a couple of minutes to adjust to a completely new position Laura had an outstanding game, and was a constant threat with the ball in her hand not only running it directly but looking to throw it as well – although now probably holds the record for the most illegal forward pass ever attempted in the sport.
Cardiff v Kent
Next up were Kent. With most players playing both ways, this was the first time in the day where proper adjustments could be made and the gap in the games was primarily spent installing how the new look offence would work. In what proved to be a great back and forth game, both the offence and defence stood up valiantly against the Exiles. With both sides fully committed to everything and very evenly matched it came down to a few big explosive plays. On the Cardiff side, Laura continued to make yards with her legs, admirably supported by Zoe Wilder who got the hard yards when needed, running straight up into the gut of the defence. Growing in confidence and with a defence keying in on her, Laura then opened up with a huge throw down the sideline to fellow rookie Katherine Fretwell who caught the contested ball and then muscled her way into the end zone for her very first TD as a Valkyrie – a great first for both of them with Laura running all the way down the field to be the first to congratulate her.
Unfortunately the Exiles just had that one extra big play and it was no surprise that their #17 was the one to break the contain and sprint her way down the sideline for what turned out to be the winning score. Yet again, she had a stand out day, both on O and D, with some huge runs as well as excellent coverage from the corner position. The Valkyries had one last drive to look to take the win, but unfortunately fell just short in Exile territory and Kent were able to kneel out the game. Despite the results on the day the Valkyries left proud of their efforts. Special shout outs go to the following players who played every single snap of both games:
Mandy Gould – Centre/DE
Zoe Wilder – RB/WR/Coner
Lauren Oldacre – LB/Guard (every play but 1).
Speaking after the game, Head Coach Simon Browning said “Nothing seems to phase this group of women. No matter what the circumstance. No matter what adversity they face, they just take it all in their stride and – most importantly – with a smile on their face. Some teams would fold in such circumstances. New defence. New offence put in on the fly. Players playing every snap. Players playing out of position. But not this group. They just keep going, and give it absolutely everything they have. As a coach I could not ask for anymore than what they gave me today”
On that note, the MVPs are given below, although we could give it to everyone just on the effort.
Honourable mentions for this award are:
Sophie Nicol – really starting to develop at the DL position, she started to really get some pressure into the backfield, but was also always hustling to get back and chase runners down from behind. Great effort all day
Katherine Fretwell – Again great effort on the outside, doing all the little things that help the team forcing runners back inside for the help to get there.
As MVP, playing both ways – as most did – this player had a great day, not only on offence but also at her more familiar defensive positioning. The pursuit to the ball was again first class, shutting down many a potential threat with sure, solid tackling. Always giving 100% effort on every play, despite a niggling injury the defensive MVP goes to… Lauren Oldacre
Honourable mentions for this award are:
The O-Line as a whole. We had talked about needing to take control of the line of scrimmage for the last few sessions and in this game all stepped up and made a great improvement in this area.
As MVP though, this player was a constant threat with the ball in hand – and also got her first ever pass and TD through the air as well. Although I don’t think anyone will ever let her forget the illegal forward pass in a hurry!
Some great runs that kept the offence moving and a great job of executing a completely new offence. Well done Laura Johnson
In a day with great effort shown all round there were several players that could have received this award. However, the winner of the award had a couple of real highlight moments.
On offence, she was handed the ball with the completely unsubtle instructions to just get the hard yards for a first down or to punch it into the endzone. What was great to see was how she put into action what had been discussed in training and just made the one move and got north-south quickly, running right into the teeth of the defence and pushing them back. Great to see the work in training come off and richly rewarded with a score. Out on the edge, she did some great blocking downfield against bigger players – again never shirking from her responsibility. Finally, on defence, possibly the play of the game coming across the field like a green missile to stop what seemed a certain Kent score. I was convinced it was going to be a score, and I still have no idea where she came from to make the tackle.
Congratulations to Zoë Jane Wilder
A huge thanks to Kent for hosting!
See the link for the full album by Kieron Hyams! https://www.kieronhyams.co.uk/2019/01/cardiff-valkyries-at-kent-exiles/?fbclid=IwAR0XfRJrt8VkG1GqWh5P6vej7l-P2O91Dp0eBLED6j4ZzFY853MFbzBK-JI