After the disappointment of Round 3 being cancelled due to the arrival of the Beast from the East, it was straight onto the finals of Division 2A and the conclusion of what has been a fantastic first season of 7s football. Following a second round that arguably featured some of the best football the team had played, the Sandwell Steelers secured the top spot of Division 2A North on points difference and a first round bye at the finals. Our goal of gaining our first silverware since the team’s first year in the league was one step closer, but with every team in the league being given the opportunity to take home the top prize and the quality of teams we have faced this year, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
Game One – Sandwell Steelers vs Wembley Stallions (Semi-final)
We had faced Wembley already this year, coming away with a 27-12 victory following strong performances on both sides of the ball in round 2. We weren’t expecting a repeat this time around with the stakes now set higher than before and a Wembley side that would be better prepared.
Wembley’s offence came out fast, despite having already played one game on the day, and scored on an opening drive that included a well-developed deep pass and a cheeky reverse play that took our defence by surprise. The extra point was good. Wembley 7, Sandwell 0.
Our offence also struggled at the start of the game, failing to reach a first down and handing the ball back to a confident Wembley offence for their second drive.
After a slow start, our defence started to get into gear. Great pressure from the defensive line resulted in an inaccurate pass from Wembley that landed in the hands of linebacker Shannon Perry. Our offence capitalised on the excellent field position, with running back Nat Talbot running in for the score and the extra point being scored by quarterback Sydney Green.
From this point on the defence kept their foot on the gas. Continued pressure on Wembley’s quarterback throughout the game and a strong run defence kept Wembley from scoring, with defensive back Helen Dorman recording a crucial sack in the game.
Following their first score, the offence also picked up the pace, with another rushing score from Sydney Green and some big runs from Nat Talbot and wide receiver Rose Hayward on the back of some excellent blocking from a unit that has allowed no sacks all year.
Shannon Perry, who got the pick earlier in the game, managed to pick the ball again in the second half and run it back for our third score of the game. 21-7 to Sandwell with time left on the clock.
The game finished with another Steelers score. Quarterback Laura Ashcroft handing the ball off to Talbot for a big run down the sideline and her second touchdown of the game. The final score Sandwell 27 Wembley 7 and our first ever spot in the final.
Game Two – Sandwell Steelers v Portsmouth Dreadnoughts (Final)
After a bit of a break to celebrate being in our first final, it was time to turn our attention to Portsmouth. We had never played the Dreadnoughts before, having only played Portsmouth Destroyers during our time in Div 2 South a couple of seasons ago. This was a different team entirely – a team that had remained undefeated all year and we knew we were going to have a real test on our hands if we were to secure gold in the finals.
As predicted, Portsmouth came out strong. On the first drive of the game our offence made some great yards but finished short of a first down. The turnover on downs introducing our defence to the Dreadnoughts powerful run game. Some great gap sound defence on the line allowed the unit to flow to the ball and stop Portsmouth from achieving a first down.
The game proved to be a constant back and forth battle. With both teams scoring two touchdowns each in the first half from strong running offences that forced both defences to miss key tackles – the only difference being our defence stopping any extra points being scored, resulting in a 14-12 half time score in our favour.
Portsmouth managed to gain the lead late in the second half via a deep pass that went over our defence and allowed Portsmouth to run in the score. Despite conceding a score, the defence held firm following the play and denied Portsmouth the extra point.
Our offence continued to compete and gain yards to try and win the game – marching down the field to set up the closest attempt at a score from a very nearly completed pass from Sydney Green to Rose Hayward in the end zone. It wasn’t meant to be and Portsmouth managed to break the pass up as the ball fell into Hayward’s hands.
Portsmouth chose to wind down the clock at the end of the game to secure their win. The score at the final whistle Portsmouth 18 Sandwell 14 in a competitive game that showed just how far both these teams have come. Congratulations to Portsmouth on their win!
So, there you have it. Though we just fell short of gold, our first season playing 7s football has been nothing short of incredible and even ended with us getting our first silverware in our history.
During the off season we’ll be doing some strength and conditioning in the gym and doing our best to recruit as many new players as possible to help us continue to grow. Keep an eye on the Steelers’ Facebook page for latest updates and information about the team.