Somewhere very far north near Liverpool and in the middle of seemingly nowhere our Southern Blaze (including 9 of your very own Exiles) were guests of the Northern Blizzard for the showdown of the 2019 Diamond series (The annual North v South 11 a-side tournament).
It was cold, windy and the rainy start to the day when we took to the field to begin play. Hampered by the conditions both sides struggled with the passing game whilst at the same time the defences constantly stifled each other’s run attack. However the determination and tenacity of our Blaze offence finally broke the stalemate and put us ahead 6-0. Back and forth changes of possession then continued with no further scoring in the half allowing us to go into the locker room with the slender lead.
Coming out after half time an invigorated Blizzard soon evened the score to put the game tied at 6-6. A very evenly balanced battle then ensued with both teams keeping it close and scoring alternately with the only difference being a successful extra point conversion that allowed the Blizzard to edge ahead into the fourth quarter 14-12.
With less than 3 minutes to go in the game we had the ball and the opportunity to retake the lead to give us the win. Sadly mistakes were to cost us dearly in both field position and time of possession. The Blizzard did not miss the chance to capitalise on our errors, they regained possession, drove downfield and put the final nail in the coffin by scoring once more and ending any chance of our comeback.
The Northern Blizzard emerged worthy victors at 22-12 but all that were present would agree that it was a hard fought battle and an extremely entertaining match to watch for all the rain-soaked supporters as both teams gave it their all right to the end.
The skill levels demonstrated on the day by every player showed how far this level of the game has come along and your own Exiles: Alice ‘Chips’ Swanton, Clare Lewis, Dora ‘Dory’ Bogdan, Heather McMahon, Karen Alexis, Kirsty McIntyre, Megan ‘Hunter’ Andrews, Megan Munro, Sarah ‘Millsy’ Miller gave a good showing of how far our own program is advancing with stand-out performances on offence and defence.
It was a tough loss but the passion on display in terrible conditions showed how much all of the players on both teams wanted the win and how important opportunities like the Diamond series are to the development of the game.