Keep up to date with all the latest Exiles news...

Exiles Women’s Tournament 4 Review

Sapphire Division 2 South 2019/2020

Tournament 4@Portsmouth 15/02/2020

Last minute rescheduling problems (through no fault of our hosts the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts) and the threat of storm ‘Dennis’ all tried to derail the final Division 2 South regular season tournament. But nothing short of a national disaster would have stopped these games from going ahead and other than shortening the games to ensure all three could be played in the time available we were all set to do battle once again with our foes the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts and the Peterborough Royals.
For us as coaches we had identified that the way we had approached the last tournament was far from perfect so we adopted a new pre-game procedure; one that was far more intense and up-tempo. There would be no more down-time after the warm-ups and we would go straight from one ‘quick fire’ drill to the next. This tactic appeared to work as even the cold, wet and blustery conditions didn’t dampen the players’ attitude and determination.
Our first game was against the home team the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts. We were ready, we were prepared and we were ‘fired up’!
Maybe we were a little too ‘fired up’ as on our first play (and before we had realised what was happening) an errant snap was in our end zone and with our QB recovering the ball with her knee down the safety had been conceded! For the first time all season we were behind in points!
This early victory sparked Portsmouth’s defence to another level and with their inspired tackling our offence couldn’t get into a rhythm. Every play we ran they were there to stop it and even when the score was equalised by the Dreadnoughts conceding a safety of their own we still couldn’t find the right gear. Thankfully our Defence was equally as effective as theirs and prevented the Dreadnoughts from capitalising on their defensive success
It was on the Dreadnoughts third possession from their 10 yard line when a botched backwards pitch recovered by Aimee Mulcahy turned things around. This gift of superb field position would not go to waste and on the very next play Sarah ‘Millsy’ Miller ran it in for a TD, adding another to her ever growing tally. With the PAT good we went up 10-2.
This seemed to be the catalyst that we needed as after Portsmouth’s next drive ended in another fumble (recovered by Captain Kirsty McIntyre) we were back in their endzone after only three plays (this time courtesy of QB Vicki Lucas), there was no successful PAT but we had extended our lead to 16-2 . With the half running out the Dreadnoughts had one last chance to score, only for it to be snuffed out on a joint sack by rookies Aimee Mulcahy and Perri Squirrell.
The start of the 2nd half saw the Dreadnoughts go ‘4 and out’ and turn the ball over to us on downs, a long drive then ensued that was capped by Suzy Millard running 16 yards for a touchdown on a ‘well-rehearsed’ play, again the PAT was no good but we had opened up a 20 point gap and one that would remain for the rest of the game. With only a few more drives left in the game neither side were to score again as both defences held firm and the game finished with us winning 22-2.
As the first game ran longer than expected the decision was taken to shorten the subsequent ones even further and with the weather worsening this was the sensible option as not only would the shorter games allow them all to be completed within the time allotted but it would also lessen the risk of injuries (something that’s always a high possibility in wet conditions).
Our next game against Peterborough started with our Defence quickly shutting down them down and was followed by our Offence moving the ball on the running of Vicki, who then ran it in from midfield for a touchdown. Adding on the successful 1 point conversion we took an early 7-0 lead. The Royals next drive was also to fall short, helped in no small part by a great ‘bat down’ by Safety Dory Bogdan and an impressive QB hurry by ultra-new rookie Vic Bell.
The next drive by our offence was finished off by QB Vicki running over half the length of the field for a TD. No PAT this time but we were now ahead 13-0. This only left enough time in the half for the Royals to have one last drive but with some great gang tackling by our Defence it was to amount to nothing. And before we knew it the half was over and just as quickly we were quickly back out again, this time for the last half of our regular season.
Behind the dependability of Millsy we drove downfield on runs that included a spectacular play where instead of being stopped for a loss she (with what seemed to be the assistance of the entire offence) used her natural tenaciousness to turn it into a positive 10 yards. The drive was crowned with her punching in the last TD of the day as well as the PAT for us to lead the game 20-0.
With literally only a couple of drives left in the game and conditions becoming dire there was to be no more scoring and only just enough time left for us to rotate some of the newer players into the game.
After what appeared to be an extremely short game we came out victors 20-0, finishing our regular season undefeated at 8-0 and off to the playoffs on March the 14th.
These may have been very short games but for me it was the tournament that finally put all the pieces together. More than any other games these were truly a team effort and even though not everybody’s name has been mentioned here it was the tournament where everybody worked together as a ‘well-oiled machine’.
Although it was a true team performance there was a player that stood out, one that epitomised what we set out to achieve, she was dependable, resilient, a total team player and not only did her reliable running ability kick-start our offence but her punishing runs also wore down both of our opponents’ defences. Our final regular season MVP trophy went to Millsy.
Helmet stickers for outstanding play/effort went to in game 1 Suzy for her TD on a very well-rehearsed play and in game 2 to Millsy for her run where she just would not stop and dragged most of the Defence with her.
I would like to thank the Dreadnoughts for being great hosts and inviting us all back to the clubhouse after the tournament as well as inviting us to join in their MVP drinking competition to which our MVP stand-in Vicki (Millsy had left by now) displayed another of her talents with her convincing win!
We now have three weekends to work on our preparation for the finals day, there’s no time to sit back and enjoy our season successes as our journey has not yet finished, we have a lot of hard work in front of us to realise our ultimate goal.