Pulling The Flag

Opal Series: Tournament 1 Takeaways

Week one’s in the books for the teams in the Opal Series. So what do we know after the first tournaments in Northants and Sheffield?

Sophie Parsons reports…

(Body image by Garry Charles©MyLonelyTreeMedia. Headline image by Pif Piff at P&M Photography)

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Can anyone stop Coventry?

We’re used to seeing the Coventry Cougar Ladies topping the leaderboards, but nothing could have prepared the North for double the trouble this year. Both the Cougar Ladies and their youth side ended the day on a perfect 3-0. The Manchester Titans came close to unsettling the Cougar Youth with a narrow 27-32 game, but Coventry managed to hold on for victory. However, their points difference took a hit and only time will tell whether this will have an impact later in the tournament.

Coventry Pink Panthers are back with a bang

The South may have breathed a sigh of relief when both Cougar teams were sent North, but the Pink Panthers are here to see an end to that. They ranked 13th in last year’s Opal series and turned up this weekend with just 5 players, but underestimate them at your peril.

Boasting a 3-0 start, the Pink Panthers won two shutouts and achieved six defensive TDs during their match against Chichester. They also have the best points difference in the South with 121 for and only 13 against. This would be an impressive feat for any team, let alone one on their fifth QB of the year! With their regular QB returning for Opal 2, the Panthers are definitely one to watch.

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Photo by Garry Charles©MyLonelyTreeMedia

 

The year of the new QB?

Speaking of QBs, there are plenty of rookies at the helm this year. We have eight teams entering Opal for the first time and on top of that, returning teams like Chichester and Warwick have seen rookies step up and take the place of graduating veterans. All can walk away proud from this weekend as every team scored at least one touchdown despite some tough match ups.

Dominant defences

There are some seriously formidable defenses in the tournament this year. There were 8 shutout games across the tournament, with the Northants Titans as the only team with 0 points scored against them so far. Portsmouth achieved 4 turnovers in the first half of their game against Cardiff and the Chorley Buccaneers saw their first ever Opal touchdown come from a pick 6 by Louise Moran – against the Coventry Cougars of all teams. Iceni Spears are currently sat on 8 interceptions in one day – more than they scored across the whole series last year. All in all, defenses have definitely upped their game over the off-season.

The ones to watch

It’s early days but the first tournament has separated the ranks a little. In the South, it looks like a competition between Pink Panthers and Northants Titans for the conference title. Portsmouth Dreadnoughts will be looking to build on their experience and could prove a challenge – with players like Georg Alexander-O’Connor scoring a hat-trick in just one half of football, they can’t be underestimated. The Warwick Wolverines also boast plenty of experience and as their new QBs find a rhythm, they’re certainly not to be ruled out.

In the North, it is of course the Coventry Cougar teams sitting on top currently. Last year’s Northern conference champions Sheffield Hallam Warriors are likely to put up a fight; they had a strong start with a 41-0 shutout win against Nottingham and a more modest 20-6 win over Teesside. They did lose to the Cougars Ladies, but they’ll be hoping for a second shot in December. The Manchester Titans were a surprise wildcard this weekend. They ranked 12th last year but have shown vast improvement over the off season, leading to a 44-0 win over Sandwell Steelers and the second best points difference in the North.

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Check back with Pulling the Flag for more updates as the competition progresses…

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