Sapphire 2019/20: Round 1 review and MVPs

Sapphire Series 2019/2020

Sapphire 2019/20: Round 1 review and MVPs

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CARDIFF VALKYRIES v CHESHIRE BEARS

Final Score: 36-18

The Valkyries had faced the Bears before in the 2018/19 season and so knew that the game was going to be a physical affair. With players having also competed in various Diamond series there was a great sense of rivalry between the teams as friends off the field got to go head-to-head on it.

From the outset the game went as envisaged with both teams going back and forth at each other. The Bears landed the first blows with some powerful running for a score, but undeterred the Valkyries hit back through the powerful running of Laura Johnson.

Both defences were bringing the pressure and time after time saw Valkyries in the backfield, either shutting down runs or putting pressure on the Bears QB. In the secondary Zoe Wilder almost had a couple of interceptions and it was great to see club President Lois McConville, in her first match back from injury, solid in the tackle when needed.

With both offences facing heavy pressure, it was a case of looking for that big play and the Valkyries found one in a great pass from QB Kira Walker that found the ever-safe hands of Ruth Lewis, who did the rest taking it the distance.

Despite only 2 points separating the teams at half time, the size of the Bear’s squad began to show in the second half. Fresh legs kept the pressure up on the Valkyries and the pressure from the powerful Bear’s Defensive Line was rewarded with several defensive scores to end the game 36-18

Despite the score line it was great to see the new wave of Valkyries in action. A true baptism of fire against a powerful Bears squad did not deter them and they showed the “never say die” spirit that typifies the Valkyrie way. Fighting to the end, they did themselves proud.

CARDIFF VALKYRIES v LEICESTER FALCONS

Final Score: 20-8

With a short turn around of 20 mins the Valkyries were back in action again, this time facing the Falcons. With previous gaming experiences as the Division 1 Derby Braves, before forming as the Falcons, there was a sense of the unknown for the Valkyries.  With only a brief chance to see them in action against the Bears, the game was one of new challenges, bringing a fascinating and very different gaming experience to Cheshire.

Offensively, the Valkyries faced a very different style of play resulting in a different game plan to game 1. However, with the offensive line opening holes, the outcome was the same with more powerful running form Laura Johnson leading to another full field run for a score.

The game became another where both teams traded blows with Zoe Wilder coming in at running back to gain the hard yards and another long throw to Ruth Lewis ultimately coming up short of the endzone.

On defence, the Valkyries were facing a new style of offence and rookies were constantly tested to adapt to the well drilled and executed blocking schemes of the Falcons. On the outside, corners Lois and Ruth, as well as rookies Sara Pratt and Maria Cook, were called upon to play a big part in the run defence making plenty of big hits. Defensive adjustments began to cause pressure on the Falcons with Linebacker Zoe John causing fumbles and also getting a safety.

However, despite another non-stop effort, the Falcons execution ultimately proved to be the decider with the relentless running punching in for a couple of scores to seal the game 20-8

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Round 1 MVPs

While the score lines may not have gone in our favour, there was no denying the heart and spirit that the team showed throughout the day. The team took several rookies to the tournament and all not only contributed on the field but embodied the Valkyrie spirit of playing hard to the final whistle with a smile on their face. This is also despite being asked to play a range of positions through the day as well as adjust to new plays and tactics in real time, a true testament to how hard they have worked during the pre-season.

Given the effort shown by all, choosing MVPs was a hard job for the coaches as there were many great performances. However, the final decision came to…

DEFENSIVE MVP

Such a great performance from across the board. Rookie Sara Pratt showing immense hustle chasing down the ball carrier to save what seemed like a certain scored that typified the effort she showed all day. At Linebacker, both Katie and Jennifer gave it everything they had with constant effort and determination. They were constantly hustling to the ball and looking to play aggressive with real tenacity. Katie also came across and covered on the Oline as well in great two-way performance.

Overall though, the defensive MVP was Zoe John. Leading from the front, the veteran Linebacker made tackle after tackle. Always a thorn in the opposition side she seemed to always either be in the QBs face or hunting down the runner. A true captain’s performance and one whose energy and enthusiasm positively affected all those around her.

OFFENSIVE MVP

Facing strong pressure across both games the Oline gave the QB the time needed at key points allowing the explosive plays to the receivers. At receiver, Sara Pratt executed her role brilliantly. With crisp routes and great blocking on the edge it was great to see her develop and she showed the potential to really grow as the tournament progresses.

Overall though, Laura Johnson was the game changer. Either breaking runs to the outside or straight up the middle, she was a constant threat with ball in hand all day and thoroughly deserves the MVP award.

OVERALL MVP

Overall one player stood out across the board. Another veteran leader of the team, she helped inspire those around her to greater levels of play. Asked to play the majority of tournament both ways as both receiver and corner she executed both to the high standard we have come to expect. On defence she was hustling to the ball and making key tackles in the run game. On Offence, she played her role to perfection and was duly rewarded for her efforts.

Congratulations Ruth Lewis.

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