The Valkyries started their game days with the usual early alarms and coffees, and again we faced an entirely new game format with 7 a-side– the nerves were certainly there. However, we knew this was going to be part of something special for Sapphire Series 2018.
Cardiff Valkyries v Wembley Stallions
The first game of the say saw us against Wembley. On the defense we proved to be a strong unit, including a sack by rookie linebacker Ceri Yeoman and pressuring their run game. With all players showing a development in their theoretical knowledge and coverage, the pressure from the whole team was evident in the game. We all know the Wembley are a very talented team, so this really does say words about the D.
On offense the pressure was on with Wembley’s speed. As a result there were several turnovers on offense with slips and slides on the ball. However we did spice things up a bit with an entire offensive line (that’s right – 5 and even 6 offensive lineman!) and played around with several new positions for vets and rookies alike in game time. Not only this, but some great runs by QB Kira Walker and Han O’Connor at RB, the offense were gaining yardage and never losing spirit.
End score Wembley 36 – Valkyries 0
Cardiff Valkyries v Portsmouth Dreadnoughts
Then after a few minutes rest came the Portsmouth game. Once again defense were a strong performance. Portsmouth’s run and switch plays saw the ability to get past some of the D, scoring up the points. However this doesn’t reflect how many great tackles were made and the pressure that the defense consistently maintained.
Offensively we really started to find our feel for the game (and in such bad weather conditions that really says something…), starting to move the ball more on runs and passes – with a fantastic long catch by Lois McConville. Unfortunately the catch was followed with an injury, and the game was called with ten minutes to go. Even in a shorter game it seemed like a different offense performance – a really great advancement!
End score Portsmouth 32 – Valkyries 0
The offensive MVP for round 1 goes to one of our centers, Maria Mercedes May. Off with injury for several months and going up to 7s are major issues for any player, though you wouldn’t have been able to tell for MVP Maria. Maria made a big impact coming on to the field, not only not only with the snaps in bad conditions but also with her blocking against a strong, physical team. Alongside this she also gave great support to the two rookies playing alongside her in their first ever games.
Special mention goes to rookie running back Han O’Connor who really grew into the day and put a great effort into the day with some really great runs. Coming in with limited exposure to real game experience, she grew into the tournament and really started to get it going towards the end with some strong runs. Though with little experience games you would think she has been at the position much longer with the heart she showed in the games.
Defense MVP goes to defensive end, Sheryl “Shed” Dame. Sheryl proved to be a dominant force in both games, keeping up the pressure and ensuring some great tackles. Some great pressure and tackles through the games, always putting in the effort to get in and around the action. Had fun in the second game with all the attention she received from the guard and TE at the point of attack but held up well against the blocks. Close to several sacks as well leading the team, defensive captain Sheryl was no doubt a visible influencer in the game.
Special mention goes to receiver and corner, Ruth Lewis. Not only some big hits but also some great covering tackles, including the big chase down along the sideline to prevent a score.
Clearly there are lots of things to take away round 1. We looked to adjust and try new things and it is a testament to where the team are that we were able to try new things and have success with them. Not every team can go out and run an offence that has never been practised at any point at the drop of a hat and with minimal instruction. Not every defence could be put in a completely different alignment and still get success. Not only that but players moved around different positions to cover. Both Mandy shifting over to the DL and then Lauren Oldacre moving to LB to cover was great to see.
It was a long day from start to finish. It was cold, wet, injuries here there and everywhere. But we played with heart the entire day. We know where we can improve, and we know we will. Last year our comparison from round 1 to round 4 was definitely noticeable…let’s see how we improve in comparison this year…
On the note of Lois’ injury we would like to take this moment to thank the medic and the Portsmouth team for their help, with several of their players and coaches staying after the game for quite a significant period of time. Lois will be out for the remainder of the season but it doing well.