With thunder and lightning forecast, it was with great concern of our first competitive games since the COVID-19 outbreak being cancelled, that we headed to the Warriors tournament.
As the lightning failed to appear and the rain petered out we took the field for our first game against the Wembley Stallions. The game started as I thought it would with both teams having to shake off the cobwebs and a resulting see-saw battle developing between the squads. Both teams were going toe-to-toe as each defence held the others offences in check and included a fumble recovery by Emily Jefferson and some great tackling on both sides. Eventually, the deadlock was broken midway through the first half with a determined run and score by the Stallions. The point after was incomplete but the Stallions were on the board with a 6-0 lead.
It would be a lead they would only hold for only eight plays as a great play by QB Vicki Lucas allowed her to scamper into the end zone and pull us level, with the point after no good we were tied 6-6.
There were no further scores in the half, so we went into half-time knowing that if we played mistake free football the game would be within our reach.
Sadly, it was not to be. A hiccup early in the second half allowed the Stallions to make a catch in the end zone and retake the lead, with no point after they were ahead 12-6.
It was not much later that things went from bad to worse as when Vicki dropped back for a pass on our first offensive drive of the half she injured her knee as she was tackled to the ground.
Dory Bogdan was quickly readied as a back-up and despite playing at Safety for the last two years was good to go immediately. Unfortunately, we were unable to mount a scoring drive and despite a late interception by Sophie George we couldn’t get that tying score we so desperately needed and Wembley were to finish winners by a touchdown 12-6.
A helmet sticker for play of the game went to Vicki for her inspired TD.
With very little time to rest and digest the last game we prepared for our next game against the London Warriors.
Coming off a very decisive win against the Cheetahs the confidence of the Warriors was high and it showed. This game turned out to be a baptism of fire for us and ultimately taught us how much we need to do to be competitive at this level.
Hampered by losing our starting QB and a couple of others to injury we struggled to mount an effective drive against their defence and were unable to stop the running game of their offence.
Some hastily made adjustments to our game plan inspired our defence to stage a last minute rally with commanding tackles in the backfield by Lisa Edwards and Vic Bell but we were unable to make a change in the score. However, it did allow us to finish on a positive note and highlighted some of the Warriors weak points giving us something to work on for our future games against them. In the end we were beaten by a well-coached and well drilled team and we were on the end of a lop-sided score of 53-0. Helmet stickers went to Lisa and Vic for their tackles for loss.
For our first foray into a higher division these were not the outcomes we wanted or had worked so hard for, but not for one moment did we think that going up against teams from a higher division would be easy. We will use this as a valuable lesson, will learn from this, we will go over the game film and plan our strategy accordingly, we will progress from this. This season was always going to be a work in progress and one where we would find out what we need to do to become the team we believe we will be. We will bounce back from this and you can expect to see a revitalised Exiles team at the next tournament.
Honourable mentions go to:
MVP Dory, who stepped in at QB when Vicki went down and not only allowed us to keep going but lead the offence with the level of competency we’ve come to expect from Dory.
Our Offensive line (a depleted squad due to holidays and COVID-19). Our OL was held together by Karen Alexis who had injured her knee only the week before but played through the pain, Lisa Edwards who left the OL last season to play at RB but was pressganged back to shore up the line and Olivia Alexis who is not only a rookie but gave up a close friend’s wedding to ensure we had numbers.
We asked a lot from them and they did themselves and us proud.