Pulling The Flag

5 Points from Opal North 3

With two different winners of the past two Northern Opal Series tournaments in Leeds Carnegie and Sheffield Hallam, would we see one of the two claim first prize again or would be see a new comer to the podium? The city of Nottingham would give us the answers, oh yeah and a Starbucks right next to the pitch, bonus!

1)  The Braves kick on!

Last time out we reported that the Derby Braves were consistently putting in performances and quietly creeping into the reckoning for top four placing come the final in Leeds on December 6th. The short trip across Brian Clough way to Nottingham yesterday would provide quite the surprise.

Derby raced out of the blocks with a shutout win over the previous tournament winners Sheffield Hallam in their opening game. Their combined threat of effective blitzing and ball hawking safety play would be a glimpse as to how the rest of the day would pan out. Two more seemingly comfortable wins over Nottingham Uni B and Teesside Steelers would have them competing in their first ever final.

Not wishing to single out one person in what was a true team performance, but the overall endeavour of Laura Thompson-Stevens at QB & WR must have had Great Britain head coach Andrew Gambrill salivating at the possibility of adding such talent to his ranks in the new year? Rolling out and throwing on the run or catching a quick out and evading the opposition defence for a touchdown, she seemed to stand out like a sore thumb in terms of all round talent on the day.

Derby claimed their first Opal Series victory in what was again a surprisingly comfortable 14-0 win over the hosts and their close rivals, the University of Nottingham’s A team. Two touchdowns and a safety would give them the full 15pts and 31pts that would secure their place among the four Northern teams who will compete for the Opal crown next month.

2) Are Nottingham saving themselves for the big one?

Nottingham have shown exceptional progression since last year and have looked like being potential winners of all three of the Northern rounds so far this season without quite getting it done.

Despite the loss in the final against the Braves, they have finished the three tournaments in overall second place on 34pts. Are they coming up on the rails and awaiting their moment to spring the surprise on the rest of the teams in the finals itself? Think back as far as February and we might have the answer. In a charity tournament hosted by the Northampton Phantoms, the Uni outfit took the Coventry Cougars to sudden death overtime in the final and have been getting better and better ever since.

Wins against Leeds Carnegie, East Kilbride and the Manchester Titans would suggest that they are priming themselves for the finals, but why have they not quite gone that step further? Perhaps its stamina? Perhaps its the case that they’ve just come up against a team who has just played better? Or perhaps they are in fact just waiting for the overall glory? Time will tell…

3) Overtimes not confusing, right?

Overtime rules differ from tournament to tournament and are often proprietary to whomever has organised the event. But one thing that usually is common place is that both teams are afforded the chance to have an offensive drive or shot at the opponents endzone from the 5 yard line. If its tied after the scenario, then sudden death rule applies and whoever fails to score is defeated.

Well, yesterday in the East Kilbride v Manchester Titans game we heard of a rather unusual and uncommon wrinkle to the rules which left almost everyone scratching their heads.

EKP’s Lindsay Robson intercepted the Titans first attempt at scoring in overtime and took the pick all the way back to the other endzone. Now ordinarily this would mean 2pts to the defending team, but the Pirates hadn’t actually taken their shot at the endzone yet and left everyone with a few interesting questions. Was that it? Was the game over? Do EKP have to take a shot at the endzone? Does the fact its been taken back count as 2pts? Thankfully between, the referees, organisers and team coaches a decision was made and EKP would have to take their shot, but the pick would count as 2pts.

But wait, hang on one darn minute, that was not the end of the story. Now why would EKP risk throwing a ball into the endzone and risk a interception and a erm…pick 2? Well they didn’t and the head coach of the EPK declared that they would be taking a knee and that was that! Strange way to finish a game right? Well how it went down!

4) Running game is strong

One of the highlights of yesterdays play was the effective use of the running game. Now traditionally in senior flag football, the running game if often left out of the playbook and used sparingly unless you have an absolute out and out speedster in your squad. It is commonly used in youth football and is a great way of gaining “good” yards to advance the drive. There does seem to be a stigma st senior level to use it to a teams advantage.

Perhaps the rest of the league has taken a page out of the Coventry Cougars playbook? Or perhaps its been there all along but not ran as well until now? The ball carriers seem to be developing their skills and thus making better football moves out on the field. Either way, some of the designed run plays and weaving runs seen yesterday highlight that you don’t have to risk throwing the ball every down to make a good football play.

Maybe it is easier to shut down the run? But it sure does look good when the running back breaks a tackle or two and scores a worldy!

5) Warm drinks warm cold hands

Whoever chose the Nottingham Jubilee Campus yesterday was a bloomin genius! Having a Starbucks right next to the venue on a cold wintry day was life saver. Had there not been the ability to clasp my hands around a warm vanilla hot chocolate during the day, this article may never had been written due to frostbite or the equally exaggerated conclusion of my fingers just completely falling off. For that, you made the top 5!

Starbucks

 

Opal Northern Rankings: After tournament 3

Leeds Carnegie 10/27 = 37

Nottingham A 12/22 = 34

Sheffield Hallam  Warriors 6/25 = 31

Derby Braves 15/16 = 31

Teesside Steelers 8/12 = 20

Manchester Titans 4/8 = 12

East Kilbride Pirates 5/6 = 11

Nottingham B 3/4 = 7

 

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